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Thread: 1981 Times: Killer Wind in the Mojave

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    Default 1981 Times: Killer Wind in the Mojave

    Desert gusts maim paratroopers in mass airdrop

    It was 6 a.m. The sun had just risen when a squadron of Air Force C-130's and C-141 Starlifters appeared over the Mojave Desert at Fort Irwin, Calif., some 130 miles northeast of Los Angeles. From three landing zones on the desert floor, plumes of colored smoke began to rise. At that go-ahead signal, the sky blossomed with parachutes as 2,300 troops of the elite 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C., began the first phase of operation Gallant Eagle '82, a massive $45 million mock invasion by the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force. It was one of the largest peacetime airdrops ever. It would also prove to be one of the most tragic.

    In the first seconds, ground observers spotted a "streamer"—a parachute that had not fully opened—and watched in horror as the helpless soldier wearing it plummeted some 800 feet to his death. Near the landing zones, powerful updrafts blew dozens of paratroopers off course and slammed them into the ground. One crashed into a military vehicle and was killed. The wind dragged other members of the 82nd, sometimes head over heels, across the rocky terrain when they were unable to pop safety catches to release their chutes. Said Army SP/4 Daniel Maynard, 24, of New York City, who suffered a fractured pelvis: "I hit the ground, rolled about three times and started to pass out." Five troopers were killed and 151 injured, many with head wounds and broken legs. All told, nearly 7% of the participants were hurt; an injury rate of 1 % is considered normal in such exercises.

    Shaken military officials were mystified at first. The range officers who sent up the smoke plumes to signal safe jumping conditions had just clocked the winds in the landing zones at 6.6 m.p.h. to 11 m.p.h., well below the 15-m.p.h. safety limit for training jumps. By week's end military investigators had come up with a possible explanation. Taking wind readings where the ground checks had been made at the eastern end of the landing zones, they found gusts of only 9 m.p.h. But almost three miles away at the western end, where most of the injuries occurred, they were surprised to find that the gusts measured more than 20 m.p.h. Some investigators theorize that these winds had careened off a nearby range of low mountains and swept back across the desert, creating crosscurrents and general turbulence. Said 82nd Airborne Major John Dye: "Desert people have seen the phenomenon before. We had not, even though we jumped into this place four weeks ago on another exercise." The military investigation is expected to continue for several weeks. One grim lesson already has been learned—in the future, more complete wind measurements will be taken before those colored plumes are sent up.
    "He was a SOT-A Soldier doing exactly what SOT-A's do," his commander said, "fighting alongside his special forces teammates in the most difficult, dangerous places while carrying heavy loads of technical gear that saves lives of our forces and takes the lives of our enemies."


    1SFG(A) Commander speaking about Sgt Andrew "A.J." Creighton

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    Default Re: 1981 Times: Killer Wind in the Mojave

    I jumped Gallant Eagle 84....they still were jumpy. We had combat camera on my bird filming exits and chase planes filming from outside.

    I did watch a Water Buffalo streamer in followed by a Gamma Goat with a partial malfunction. The Goat hit so hard it snapped all three axles.......

    The water buff exploded like a dropped beer can.

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    Default Re: 1981 Times: Killer Wind in the Mojave

    I had a platoon daddy who was on this jump. I remember him telling us that he saw a gamma-goat being drug after it landed.

    I might be mistaken, but I believe this jump is what created the change to the DZSO procedures requiring wind readings be taken at both ends of the dropzone. But I'm sure someone with more current knowledge can confirm or deny that.

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    Default Re: 1981 Times: Killer Wind in the Mojave

    I jumped the same DZ in 1992. I got my ass drug halfway back to Vegas before I could get the chute collapsed. Hell, it drug me even after I released one riser. I had to undue both to stop.

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    Default Re: 1981 Times: Killer Wind in the Mojave

    I was the S3 Air for 1/325 ate the time. We were the DRF 9 who pushed them out of Pope and was in the GLOs office (he was a former Red Falcon) when the reports started coming in. Officially attributed to wind shears at the trail end (as I remember it) of the DZ. Over the next several days we were at Green Ramp meeting the incoming Nightingales with the injured troopers. God bless 'em all.
    DZSO procedures changed a bunch following that jump....................as you can imagine. No more use of the Dwyer Meters to check winds, readings must be taken from the highest point of the DZ starting 20 minutes before drop time, etc.

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    Dutch325

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    Default Re: 1981 Times: Killer Wind in the Mojave

    Quote Originally Posted by Ops NCO View Post
    I had a platoon daddy who was on this jump. I remember him telling us that he saw a gamma-goat being drug after it landed.

    I might be mistaken, but I believe this jump is what created the change to the DZSO procedures requiring wind readings be taken at both ends of the dropzone. But I'm sure someone with more current knowledge can confirm or deny that.

    Ops
    I was personally involved w/ DZSO operations for Gallant Eagle '82. I've never gotten over the sight of so many jumpers with problems in the air, and medivac helicopters swarming the sky following a jump.

    You are exactly correct, it was that operation that led to the requirement for wind readings at both ends of the DZ, but only for DZs of a certain length or greater.

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    Default Re: 1981 Times: Killer Wind in the Mojave

    Quote Originally Posted by Mudge View Post
    I was personally involved w/ DZSO operations for Gallant Eagle '82. I've never gotten over the sight of so many jumpers with problems in the air, and medivac helicopters swarming the sky following a jump.

    You are exactly correct, it was that operation that led to the requirement for wind readings at both ends of the DZ, but only for DZs of a certain length or greater.
    We appreciate your input, however... please proceed to the Intro thread and post an introduction per site SOP.
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    Default Re: 1981 Times: Killer Wind in the Mojave

    Quote Originally Posted by Mudge View Post
    I was personally involved w/ DZSO operations for Gallant Eagle '82. I've never gotten over the sight of so many jumpers with problems in the air, and medivac helicopters swarming the sky following a jump.

    You are exactly correct, it was that operation that led to the requirement for wind readings at both ends of the DZ, but only for DZs of a certain length or greater.
    Weeping Jesus on the Cross.....
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    Default Re: 1981 Times: Killer Wind in the Mojave

    Quote Originally Posted by IEDmagnet View Post
    We appreciate your input, however... please proceed to the Intro thread and post an introduction per site SOP.
    My bad... didn't know there was an SOP.

    FWIW, I was the S3Air for the 2/505. We had DZ support duty for that operation, to include DZSO and parachute recovery. There were 5 drop zones, each manned by one of the 5 company commanders as DZSO, with their soldiers providing parachute recovery on their respective DZs. As the Bn S3Air, I was in a gamma goat maintaining radio communication w/ each of the DZSOs as well as the exercise HQ from a small hill, maybe 200' or so higher than the surrounding terrain, overlooking the largest of the DZs. That hill, and other terrain features in the area, caused the crazy wind patterns.

    I remember distinctly watching the smoke on that DZ rising straight into the sky, almost no wind. I also heard every single DZSO confirm that wind readings were well within acceptable limits.

    All the early jumpers came down fairly smoothly all the way to the ground, except for the one jumper who streamer'd in. Towards the end of the DZ, where the winds were the worst, most jumpers came down fairly straight until about 200' above the ground (I'm estimating based on the fact that they seemed about on my level at the time), when they hit the wind sheer and took off laterally. Jumpers were being dragged everywhere, one jumper was dragged head first into the heavy drop platform of an overturned gamma-goat. He was one of the casualties, as was the jumper with the streamer.

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    Default Re: 1981 Times: Killer Wind in the Mojave

    Quote Originally Posted by yrualeg View Post
    Weeping Jesus on the Cross.....
    I'm sorry, but as a cherry on this forum, I'm not sure what you mean with your comment? As a forum administrator, I'm assuming you weren't just being a smartass.

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    Default Re: 1981 Times: Killer Wind in the Mojave

    Quote Originally Posted by Mudge View Post
    I'm sorry, but as a cherry on this forum, I'm not sure what you mean with your comment? As a forum administrator, I'm assuming you weren't just being a smartass.
    It is a prayer for cherries that post without an introduction ... he is a very religous man he is !

    2ND PLT hall way in the 618th Engr Co. Barrack was painted as a memorial to that jump we lost 4 engineers due to injuries on that day. Sad to say that the memorial was all painted over when the New Bn Co. wanted egg shell white on all the walls and "coffe brown for uniformity". Prior to that all the hallways were painted red white and blue. I don't remember the guys name but I remember the guy looked like Frank Perdue only smaller

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    Default Re: 1981 Times: Killer Wind in the Mojave

    Great post! I was'nt on that Jump but I was at bragg at the time,I'll never forget all the buzz,that was one fucked up operation.R.I.P

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    We lost two men from our battalion on that jump and a great many from B Battery 1st 320th ABN FA were hurt badly. I remember it well.

    Hardcore Harry

    "The Nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools."
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    Default Re: 1981 Times: Killer Wind in the Mojave

    Nice to see you getting active again...How's the recovery going? AATW
    "If you can't communicate, you can't command"
    Student: What if my main parachute doesn't open?
    Black Hat: You will immediately deploy your reserve parachute.
    Student: What if my reserve parachute doesn't open?
    Black Hat: You have the rest of your Airborne life to think about it.

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    Default Re: 1981 Times: Killer Wind in the Mojave

    My team was in the Philippines when that happened - I remember hearing about it when we returned to Bragg and thinking, "WTF?"

    Purple

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