F-16 top gun DuBois laid to rest with full honors
RIFLE — This community paused Sunday to lay to rest a native son who had become one of America’s real-life top guns.
About 900 relatives and friends attended the funeral service for Air Force Capt. Will “Pyro” DuBois, who died Dec. 1 when his F-16 crashed in Jordan early in a flight that was to be an attack on ISIS targets.
The flag at Rifle High School fluttered at half-staff in a crisp breeze as mourners joined an honor guard awaiting DuBois’ casket’s arrival, and still at the end, when F-16s from Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada blasted over the school in a missing man formation to honor the 30-year-old New Castle native.
In between those moments in front of school from which DuBois graduated in 2003, longtime friends and military colleagues sought to honor DuBois’ life and console his family with tales of a loyal and funny friend, an adventurer in life who “was the nicest damn guy I ever met,” as college roommate and fellow Air Force Capt. Dan Kulp put it.
Col. Paul Murray, 20th Fighter Wing commander at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina, from which DuBois’ 77th Fighter Squadron, the Gamblers, was deployed in October to help neutralize the extremist group ISIS, which has seized land in Syria and Iraq, outlined a remarkable beginning to DuBois’ military career.
DuBois had twice been named the top fighter pilot in his class — so-called top gun awards — and had quickly become an F-16 instructor, flight lead and combat commander.
Shortly after DuBois’ arrival at Shaw, he was recommended to Murray to lead a squadron of 14 F-16s and 180 crewmen. Murray said his reaction was that DuBois was too young and inexperienced. The officer making the recommendation said, “Just meet him.” Murray did, and was convinced.
“That kind of officership at that young age is extremely rare,” Murray said. “It’s once in a generation.”
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