New Castle man dies in mission against ISIS

Randy Essex
Capt. Will "Pyro" DuBois was unaware his F-16 was descending until the final second before impact in a fatal crash last December, according to a report released by the Air Force.
U.S. Air Force |


The Air Force, in sharing family statements, shared a poem by DuBois that included these lines:

“I’m a lover, I’m a fighter

“I’m an F-16 Viper Driver ...

“Single seat, single engine, supersonic defender of freedom

“Fighter Pilot ...

“Anything in life worth doing

“is worth overdoing

“moderation is for cowards.”

An Air Force captain from New Castle who feared as a teen he wouldn’t be able to join the military and once wrote that “moderation is for cowards” died Monday when his F-16 crashed in Jordan. It developed mechanical trouble soon after taking off for an attack on ISIS.

Capt. William H. DuBois, a graduate of Rifle High School in 2003 and the University of Colorado in 2008, is among three Americans to die so far in the mission against ISIS, the brutal Islamic extremist group that has seized territory in Syria and Iraq. Like the other two, DuBois’ death was not directly in combat, according to U.S. Central Command.

Nicknamed “Pyro,” DuBois, 30, participated in ROTC in high school and college. He is the son of Donna and William “Ham” DuBois, owner of Innermountain Distributing of New Castle. His sister, Devon, lives in Silt. He also was a newlywed and is survived by his wife, Ashley.

“Will was so much more than a kick-ass fighter pilot,” his family said in a statement.

“He was the best man I ever knew,” his father said. “He had a short life that was so well-lived. He lived life to the fullest.”

Support Local Journalism

His mother said, “What can you say about the most wonderful person to walk the planet? Will was anything but generic. Family held the highest priority in his life. He made everyone around him better. I was a better person having him as my son.”

The Air Force said in a statement released Tuesday that DuBois, who was in the 77th Fighter Squadron from Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina, died in the crash near a coalition air base in the Middle East. CNN reported that the base is in Jordan.

“The death of Capt. DuBois is a sad and tragic loss for the Air Force and our most sincere condolences go out to his family, friends and squadron members during this difficult time,” Col. Stephen F. Jost, 20th Fighter Wing commander, said in the Air Force statement.

“Capt. DuBois served his country honorably; he was a valuable member of Team Shaw and will be greatly missed by all.”

Reports said that the F-16 left its base late Sunday for a combat mission in Operation Inherent Resolve, as the mission against ISIS is called.

U.S. Central Command, which is in charge of U.S. military operations in the Mideast, said the crash did not occur in either Iraq or Syria where the American-led coalition has been bombing Islamic State extremists.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said the F-16 apparently turned around before engaging in the combat portion of its flight. Warren said the crash was being investigated and that it was too early to say why the pilot was unable to eject.

The Associated Press said F-16s from Shaw AFB specialize in air-to-ground attacks on ground-based military forces, and also attack anti-aircraft installations with a variety of weapons. Squadrons at Shaw have deployed repeatedly in recent years to support U.S. military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Mideast.

Coloradans mourned.

“We are numb with shock,” said his uncle Bob DuBois of New Castle.

“Will was a wonderful young man with an incredible spirit and he was well-liked by everyone he met,” his uncle said, adding: “He has wanted to fly since he was a kid.”

New Castle Town Administrator Tom Baker had flags at Town Hall and the town cemetery lowered to half-staff, where they will remain until after DuBois’ funeral.

The DuBois family is highly regarded in town.

“Whenever there’s a special event, [Ham] is always the first one to volunteer,” said Town Clerk Melody Harrison. He “donates to everything.”

At Rifle High, Principal Todd Ellis recalled having DuBois as a student in advanced placement U.S. history and psychology.

“He had a smile that couldn’t help but make you smile back,” Ellis said, his voice occasionally breaking. “He was so unselfish. He played soccer, was on the drama team, ran track, and outside of school, he was an accomplished equestrian.”

And he wanted to be a pilot and serve his country.

“He was worried that he couldn’t get into the Air Force or the Navy because he had a pin in his arm” from an accident, Ellis said.

“Will made everywhere he went a better place,” Ellis said. “He has a generous family. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree. What a loss.”

Philip. P. DiStefano, chancellor at CU-Boulder, from which DuBois graduated with a bachelor of science in aerospace engineering, issued a statement of condolences.

“Capt. DuBois served in the United States Air Force and represented our nation, the state of Colorado, and this university with honor and distinction,” DiStefano said. “His sacrifice, and the sacrifices of the other CU men and women in uniform, are honored by our entire campus community.”

Said his sister, Devon: “There is a hole in my heart that will never be able to be filled. … I miss him terribly already and will every day for the rest of my life. He died doing what he loved, and I hope one day that will help give us some peace.”

Contributing to this report: Heidi Rice from Rifle and Angelyn Frankenberg from New Castle.

Support Local Journalism