Thursday, March 06, 2014

Flags at half-staff for pilot

“To lose a member is very sad when talking about a young person getting started in the military. Our heart goes out to the family, his unit and the air station as they work through this.” — Mayor Ken Tedford Jr. 

Flags flew at half-mast this week to remember the Marine Corps pilot who died in a jet crash Saturday afternoon near the Monitor Mountain Range.

Gov. Brian Sandoval ordered flags to be lowered from Tuesday through Thursday.

The pilot, whose named has not been released by his higher command in Okinawa, Japan, had been a student at the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center.

A spokesman for the III Marine Expeditionary Force/Marine Corps Installations Pacific said Thursday the command is working through the deliberate and sensitive process of when it can officially release the pilot’s name, service record, hometown and awards.

Mayor Ken Tedford Jr. said Thursday it is very difficult to lose a military member whether that person is training here or assigned to the air station.

“The community takes this hard,” Tedford said, explaining how active duty servicemen and women as well as veterans and their families take the loss of a life hard.

“To lose a member is very sad when talking about a young person getting started in the military,” Tedford added. “Our heart goes out to the family, his unit and the air station as they work through this.”

Tedford said the city has an open offer to assist Naval Air Station Fallon whenever the need arises.

Retired Cmdr. Steve Endacott, a former squadron commander at NAS Fallon, said situations like these are always difficult.

“The grieving whether it’s family or a squadron is a very private thing,” said the Fallon resident.

The Navy said a memorial service for the pilot will be conducted next week.

Earlier this week, the governor and his wife expressed their condolences.

“It is with a heavy heart we learn of the death of the military pilot whose aircraft crashed this weekend,” said the governor, who is also the state’s commander in chief for the Nevada National Guard. “This incident is a sad reminder of the dangers our military men and women are faced with every day. Kathleen and I extend our deepest sympathies to the friends and family of this fallen hero.”

Sen. Dean Heller also offered his sympathies.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to the friends and family of the brave Marine whose life was lost in service to this great country,” Heller said Thursday in a statement. “This tragedy is a sad reminder that every day our nation’s military pilots report for work, they risk their lives on our behalf. We are grateful for their bravery and commitment to this nation.”

Natalie Parrish, executive director of the Fallon Chamber of Commerce, said the Fallon community mourns the loss every time a military member dies.

According to the Navy, the pilot, who was training at NSAWC, died when his jet crashed on a training flight over the rugged Nevada terrain about 40 miles east of Austin. Spokeswoman Lt. Reagan Lauritzen of the Naval Air Forces, U.S. Pacific Feet in San Diego said a debris field was found within the training area.

Search crews discovered the U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18C that was on loan to NSAWC for use as a training aircraft. Lauritzen said the craft was a total loss.

The Navy Range Complex, where the accident occurred, provides Carrier Air Wing training, advanced instructor training, fleet replacement squadron training, integrated air-to-air and air-to-ground unit level training, joint exercises and tactics development. The range extends primarily east and northeast from Fallon.

The Navy said the cause of the crash is under investigation.

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