Training Maneuvers … Pope Air force Base at Ft. Bragg
It was July of 1978 that we heard, and FELT, the first blast ! We, my husband and I, could not imagine what was happening. Even the windows were shaking and the BOOMS seem to get louder as the minutes went by.
Little did we know, when we moved to North Carolina, that we would be so close to Ft. Bragg where the army conducts training operations and maneuvers. We were to learn that this is an on-going thing here and that the guerilla training is the final exercise before Special Forces students graduate and receive their assignments.
After almost 33 years here you would think I would get used to the sounds but it is still enough to jar me awake at night and is a constant reminder that war is never far away.
My most vivid memory having to do with these test maneuvers was also in 1978. In those days Ft. Bragg was much less restricted than it is now and you could actually drive from our house straight through the base as a short cut to the center of Fayetteville.
That is exactly what my husband and I had done one afternoon and we were returning home around 9:30 at night. We had just left the Ft. Bragg compound and were proceeding on a stretch of road that was part of the Pope Air Force base. It was very dark and deserted.
All of a sudden we heard popping sounds and we stopped the car to see what it was. We watched in amazement as thousands of flares lit up the sky and we could make out low flying troop planes with their hatch doors opening wide. Then, as if on cue, the paratroopers all jumped at once.
The sky was teeming with tiny floating figures held aloft by their parachutes and slowly making their way toward the ground. Our vantage point didn’t allow us to see them actually make a landing but we did see two of the fellows get caught in tree branches.
We never could figure out why they lit up the sky so the men could see what they were jumping into instead of just practicing during daylight? But I’m glad they did. It was a surreal scene and one I will never forget.