Friday, May 06, 2011

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.


Blogger kenju said...

I think that is because so many of their attacks are done under the cover of darkness, but then, what do I know?

We were in Whispering Pines last year when the booms started. It was a very good thing that there was someone there who could tell us what it was - or we might have high-tailed it back to Raleigh!!

2:37 PM  
Blogger Cazzie!!! said...

Absolutely amazing, I would love to have seen all of that. I used to be in Air Cadets as you know. We used to be able to drive on through from one side of the Air Force Base to the other without a hitch. Then, mid 80's things got tighter security wise and so we had to use our Air Cadet passport to get onto the base and also to get off of the base. No more driving through without being stopped by a guard. Such is the way things have been progressing over the years.
I wonder, would those troops have been from the Vietnam war per chance Ginnie?

3:15 AM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

What fun! I guess that's we call a serendipitous event.

1:19 PM  
Blogger Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Ginnie, after reading this post and your comment about why the paratroopers used flares instead of practicing in daylight, I sd thinking as Knju said that it's because most drops would be in darkness, but of course without the flares.

9:03 AM  
Blogger Ginnie said...

I understand what Kenju and Beatrice are saying but we couldn't figure why they would use flares (that lit it up just like daylight) since they certainly wouldn't use them on the real thing...the men would be sitting ducks for snipers if they did.
???? still wondering.

1:38 PM  
Anonymous said...

Wow, this sounds familiar. I remember the troop drops at Ft Bragg as if it were yesterday, and it was. Dianne

1:53 PM  
Blogger Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hi Ginnie,

To live near an army training base for so many years and to hear the loud sound of shells exploding is an experience itself. People like me would get disturbed at night if there is small sound near the house.

This clearly shows how humans adapt themselves to their surroundings. I have seen people living near railway tracks and wondered how these people could put up with earth shaking sound whenever the train passed by be it day or night and especially in the night when the sound of the fast moving train will be ear shattering. But they are living for years there without any problem.

Inspite of the technological advances and easy access to different parts of the world, we are still living in isolation fearing attacks from one country or the other. The crazy terrorists misguided by fanatics are to be feared most. So we have to fortify ourselves,protect ourselves and hence the huge expenditure on armed forces and modern weaponry.

Your had a wonderful, unique experience of watching the paratroopers practicing in the night with flares to guide them. It is an uncommon experience to most of us because we see such things only in movies.

Have a wonderful day Ginnie,

7:21 PM  
Blogger Syd said...

Ginnie, I spotted about 8 flares off St. Helena Island on my sailing cruise back to Charleston. I called the CG and they seemed to know what it was. I was concerned that someone might be sinking. Probably military ops, although the CG never said.

4:58 AM  
Blogger Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

I have a blogging firend who lives in Fayatteville on the other side of Fort Bragg. She has written about the soldiers there. She always speaks of them as "our boys" with much affection. She takes great pride that her family is a military one with all the men having served at one time or another.

One of the things I found different between Canada and the US is that we hardly every seen soldiers in uniform here. Our military bases are in places with light population. When I lived in New England I got used to convoys of weekend soldiers on the interstate.

While Canadian soldiers have a proud history of remarkable service in two world wars, peace keeping and now in Afghanistan, we have avoided becoming a militaristic society like the US.

7:37 AM  
Blogger steveroni said...

Ginnie, I lived during WWII on a farm west of Cincinnati, across the Ohio River from an Army Air Force Base. My recollection (age 9) is of lying on my back on a grassy slope high above the opposite river bank...where hundreds of B-17s flew very low on their way to practiced landings.

I pretended to be a frightened boy in Stuttgart under the bombing raids. The bombardiers waved at me.


5:30 PM  
Blogger ellen said...

That must have been something! Whew.
We once lived in Marietta Ga. close to some base, and forgive me, I forget the name. The (I want to call them C5A'S..probably incorrect) used to fly over our apartment complex and I would rush to cover our baby's ears. He was too small to know the difference. The whole small place would rumble and shake.

4:53 PM  

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