Jan 31, 2005, 10:14 PM
Post #1 of 35
Fort Campbell club
Fort Campbell - Son DZ -Sorry it's no more!
All I can say is that was one hell of a great place to learn to skydive. I learned on T10's, LL's, PC's, and early squares while at Ft. Campbell in the late '70's. The demos, the friends, the club... I got out of the Army in December of '79 with 750 jumps - all from Hueys. I had a blast!
As a kid who grew up watching "Ripcord" and "Sky King", and who had made sereral jumps from the second story of my home, I had fulfilled my childhood dreams by learning to skydive at Ft. Campbell. In fact, I would later jump with Lyle Cameron, Carl Boenish, Rande Deluca, and all these other people I admired when I was younger. I'm very fortunate.
I joined the Army in 1976 with the ambition of being a paratrooper in the 509th Airborne - stationed in Italy. I had grand thoughts of military jumping, and off-time spent cruising some cobblestone street with some Maria and a bottle of wine. <Didn't happen>.
What happened was I got sick right before I was set to enter service and my entry date was delayed two weeks. Also, my job as a paratrooper with the 509th was gone because I missed my entry date. (Best thing that ever happened to me).
I had sold everything I owned and there was no turning back, so the Army would be my future for the next 3 years. Because I couldn't enter service when originally chosen, I had to change my game plan; I chose the 101st Airborne.
As an Air Cav soldier with the 101st, I saw sport skydivers jumping on main post.- Son dz. I joined the club, and under the instruction of Kurt Eckstein (the club's only fatality), I entered the sport of skydiving. I'm still jumping today, and so are some of my buddies from those Ft. Campbell days.
After hearing that the club had closed - after 45 years of jumping with Eckstien as the only fatality - I was someswhat saddened.
I remember my last jump at Ft. Campbell. We were over Bastogne dz, my RW Eagle jumpsuit flapping in the open door of the Huey - I knew I would never be here again. Thanks for the memories.
Russ Pinney Screaming Eagles Parachute Team - 78-79
Yes it is indeed sad! I did two tours at Campbell ('87-'91 and '98-'01) and was very active in the club. I provided the info that you may have read in "Parachutist" this month. I was also at the center of the effort to try to save it. Here is some additional insight:
The club's slide toward closure began in 2000. It fell victim to a very mean spirited aviation brigade commander who refused to provide aircraft support, and to civilian administrators in the Morale Welfare and Recreation department who hated the cost of operation and potential risk of of an accident. New Army regs enacted in the late '80's required all recreation activities to be 100% self supporting. Without military aircraft support, it became very difficult to keep the club profitable.
Interestingly, the club's main expense that put it in a financial bind was the club manager's salary. The club had operated for years under the voluntary leadership of it's members, but in 1988 the decision was made to hire a civilian manager. When I made a pitch to return to using elected club members to manage the club, however, the civilian bureauacrats flatly refused. They wanted someone they could keep under their direct control. So, the club was in an unwinnable catch 22, required to have a civilian manager who had to struggle to make a profit to pay his own salary, but without the means to do it, that being military aircraft.
Like you, I have lots of good memories, though. Guys like Jose Malave, Billy Colwell, and Harry Parrish, mainstays of the club, taught me to skydive. I remember as a student arriving at the club as early as possible on weekends, sometimes while it was still dark, to make sure I could sign out one of the student rigs since there were usually 60 or 70 showing up to sign out gear. I made the last jump on Son DZ in December 1999, before it was put off limits due to new barracks construction. I also made the last jump of the club on post from Army aircraft at Corregidor DZ in August of 2000. It, a classic Fort Campbell end of day 14 way, combat big way that actually built for once. As it was building I "prairie dogged", looking over the top of the formation and saw SSG John Grace, a great friend and skydiver, on the other end of the formation doing the same thing. Our eyes met, and we winked at each other, just thrilled and happy to be there in freefall. It was one of my most memorable jumps, which unfortunately at the time I did not realize would be the last on Fort Campbell, but at the same time, I somehow knew was a feeling that would never be recreated.
Chris Reed D-15996
(This post was edited by CDRINF on Feb 18, 2005, 5:16 AM)
Thanks for the info Chris. Boy things really changed over time.
When I jumped there we had a Huey four times a week with one on standby. Club dues were $5.00 a month. We were spoiled rotten and we knew it. I tried to make as many jumps as I could while I was there because I knew how much civilians were paying for them.
The club was under attack even back then. The key seemed to be as it had always been in the military - to have friends in high places. SFC Eckstein ran the club when I was there and had the support of the 101st Aviation Battalion Commander, Col. Watke. That was always our ace in the hole. We also had a club member who was a Lt. in the CID. Just like business, it's who you know.
When Eckstein bounced one of our guys did a demo into the PX for him. I went over to watch and was wearing my team uniform. After the guy landed, a large figure of man standing next to me put his arm around me and gave a consoling hug. To my astonishment, he was 101st Airborne Division Commander, Major General, John M. Brandenburg.
Eckstein was promoted to MSG posthumously, and buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
The club had some pull back then, and was respected.
It sounds as though you were the last to carry the torch, and the last of those that enjoyed the skydiving experience there. Have any photos of the dz's or the club?
I'm surprised that with all the people who have jumped there, that there isn't a bigger response to this thread. What happened to all these people?
When I was on my first tour at Campbell '87-'91 we got a Blackhawk or Huey every Saturday and Sunday, and the occasional Chinook. When I returned in 1998 we were only getting aircraft one or two days a month. There had been big cutbacks in flight hours in the late 90's that affected all Army parachute clubs. The inevitable complaints came from aviators: "We can't get enough hours for training, but we have to fly the skydivers around on weekends." Of course, come the end of the FY when the aviation units had a bunch of unflown hours, we got to jump every weekend in September as they tried to burn up all those hours. The Rucker, Hood, Lewis, and Korea clubs all folded around that time and the Bragg clubs were forced to jump off post using civilian aircraft. At Campbell when we did not have military aircraft we would go up to Russelville, KY where Harry Rooks would give us $10 jumps from his C-180, which helped keep the club active and income flowing.
The loss of aircraft support was a hard blow, and done in a very underhanded way. The Aviation brigade commander had a long history at Campbell and had always hated flying for the club. Now that he was the guy who owned the airplanes, he figured he could do something about it. He got with the post JAG lawyers and got them to craft a very strict interpretation of the regulations which essentially said that if he as commander could see no training justification for providing us aircraft, he did not have to provide us support. He said that since paradrop operations were not part of his mission, he did not have to do this. Ignored was the fact that this is how a lot of his staff pilots, who did not have time to fly during the week, got their flight time. So instead they now flew empty helicopters around the post, or up to Owensboro to pick up barbecue and fly back.
Having friends in high places helped. I knew the Garrison Commander well from a previous assignment. He was an old airborne guy, and his daughter went through the First Jump Course. He loved us, and more importantly, was directly in charge of the folks who ran recreation activities on post. When we lost our aircraft support in August of 2000, the club manager resigned. The Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) folks were simply going to let the club die by not hiring a new manager. I let the Garrison commander know, and he made it very clear to all his subordinates in MWR that he expected them to hire a new manager and support the club 100%.
The new manager tried hard to make the club work by doing some innovative things. He started the club jumping at Outlaw Field, contracted an occasional turbine, and did contract HALO Challenge training for 5th Special Forces Group. It was really hard to break even, though, and without the free advertising of jumping on Son DZ where every soldier in the barracks could see what was going on, the club slipped more and more from the public eye.
I made an appeal to the Div CSM and CG, who were not happy about all this being vetted and acted on without their knowledge. The CG pointed out, though, that now he had been put in a catch 22 where if he over-ruled the brigade commander and there was an accident, it would be his butt. He told me to wait and we would revisit the subject (i.e. wait for that aviation brigade commander to change out). The old commander left, but then so did I. Then Sept 11 happened. The club struggled on a few more years. The manager left in the summer of 2004 to pursue other interests and MWR simply let it die by not hiring a new manager.
As I mentioned in "Parachutist", the demo team still exists. It was split off from the club in the mid 80's and given its own budget and flight hours directly from the Division G3. It falls under the supervision of the Air Assault School now. I hope that someday maybe the club can be re-established around the core provided by the team.
Well, all that covers the politics of the club's demise. I would rather indulge in the memories, however. I first saw the club jumping on Son from my BOQ window, and figured that would be a fun thing to do on weekends, so I wandered over. First guy I talked to was CPT Dave Stahl, a future commander of the Golden Knights. The rest is history, as they say. I did a lot of growing up because of that club and have many friends from it. It will always be very special to me.
Attached is a picture taken 19 Dec 1999. It is of the group that made the last jumps on Son DZ. That's me on the far right in the black jumpsuit with red and yellow stripes. We sent it to LTG(R) Kinnard, the club founder, to let him know that his legacy continued.
Chris Reed D-15996
(This post was edited by CDRINF on Feb 19, 2005, 7:51 AM)
I still see Paul Bliss's name from time to time, usually in connection with the Florida CRW scene. Tom Balboni is still jumping, in Florida. Mike Weber was in Phoenix doing ATC last time I heard -- several years ago I read an attaboy in the EAA magazine about his work with the Copperstate Fly-in. Is there another Max Kohnke? I've seen a pilot by that name in the letters section of "AOPA Pilot."
As for old club alumni, I know that Jim West, owner of Skydive Greene County in Ohio jumped with the club in the early 60's, and Rich Worrall, owner of Skydive Temple in Texas jumped there in the 70's.
Chris Reed D-15996
(This post was edited by CDRINF on Feb 19, 2005, 8:32 AM)
From your last set of photos: I recognize the club building as the one where I took my FJC, taught by Mike Weber (who took most of your freefall photos, IIRC). This was before the move to the pair of 2-story barracks buildings farther south, which was before the move to the old hospital building.
In the 3-way waiting for you to dock, I recognize Paul Bliss's smiling face, and I think I that's Paul Reynolds sideways to the shot (based on the blue and yellow jumpsuit, and the Frankenstein boots). I have no idea whose feet are to the camera.
In the three-stack, I'm guessing the late Doug Harris at the top; Ed Lally in the center, and you on the bottom.
In the demo team photo, I'm not sure of anyone. Perhaps Jon Pejka facing the camera? (I'll never forget the time he climbed on top of the Huey, then slid down over the front to exit!)
You were correct regarding the individuals in each of the photos. And you're right, that is Jon Pejka at the front of the team shot. I'm to his right; Lally to the left; Bliss at the other end with Doug Harris and Johnny Shelton. I'm not sure of the base, but my guess is Dave Rodriguez and Paul Reynolds.
Here's a scanned photo that Tom Balboni sent me after Paul, Tom and I met in Florida for the CRW America's Record in 2002.
I even found a photo with you in it from Paducah. I'll scan when I get my scanner back from my son.
Hello Mark, It has indeed been a long time. I'm still living and jumping in Tallahassee, Forida and am an AFF and Tandem Instructor at The School of Human Flight. Max Khonkie is a pilot and member of the Airport Authority in Quincy, Florida. He's flying some type of Jet nowadays. I went out to Perris and jumped with Russ last July. I too am quite involved in the CReW community. As a matter of fact, I'm in that cover shot on this month's Parachutist. Solid black canopy with the red center cell. That's actually Paul Bliss's canopy. He was hurt really bad and is confined to a wheel chair. He crushed several vertebrae but is making a remarkable recovery. He has regained movement in his legs albiet he has a long way to go. I have spoken with Ed Lally a few times but have lost contact. He was having to have a hip replacement the last time we spoke. I don't know how he made out from that. I don't know of anyone else from our days at Campbell that are still actively jumping. I new you were through Don Yarling. We've been friends since I got out in 1979. It is very sad to learn that the club has met such a fate. We had it so good "back in the day." I hope you are well Mark. Best of luck to you. Tom Balboni
Ah, Ft. Campbell. I was on the 82nd team back in the early 80's. We commuted up there for the annual Chinook boogie a couple of times. Around 84, 85 if I remember. We drove up in Dave Bullen's van; packed to the gills. Paul Rafferty was one of the other guys I remember that came up with us. It was a great place. I jumped with Steve Koonie at Bragg and saw that later on he was involved with the 101st club. I jumped with Billy Cowell back when he was still a civilian with the club and later ran into him in Germany when he was a 1st Lt. flying Hueys in the unit next door. That was around '88 I guess. It's really sad what has happened to military clubs around the world! Blue skies and thanks to all the guys for sharing their memories.
There he is.....Jose Malave circa 1988......putting out a student who would later become a GK team member (1989), CRW world record holder (DQ92) & CRW National Champion (1994). It's sad to know that the clubs that provided so much to the military are being shut down. The only thing that kept me sane at Ft. Campbell was knowing that on the weekends I'd be at Son DZ making as many jumps as possible. My Sgt Major even let me get out of extra duty on the weekends so that I wouldn't miss out on my training. Both Jose Malave & Harry Parrish were my instructors, along with Keith Yoakum. I bet the Knights won't have as many candidates to choose from in years to come, since the clubs provided so many of the candidates.
Does anyone have any idea how many GK team members came from FCSPA? -JP
Regarding you writing an article on the FTSPC, did you ever get around to it? I was the defacto freefall photographer at Ft. Campbell from 81-85 and am just now going through and scanning my pictures--I would be happy to send them to you and eventually will have them all posted here. Email me at Starfire94C@gmail.com if you are interested in the pictures.
I stared jumping at Ft. Campbell as a dependent in Dec 78 when I turned 17, a jumpmaster by 18 and making demo jumps with the team by then (many of us on the demo team were dependents at the time--me, Vickie Michaels, Billy Colwell Jr., my younger brother Mike Hinton and Andy Mazerik). FTSPC really was the worlds best kept secret. Mad rushes to finish packing so we could make the next lift, Black Hawk jumps from 14,000 normally, and once at 16,000. Chinook jumps on occasion. Really the best. After I entered the Army I went to Ft. Bragg and I must say, after jumping at Ft. Campbell, Bragg sucked--too many people waiting to jump, jumps from only 7,500' so that more lifts could be made, lucky to make two jumps per day, etc. The people were great there, but it wasn't Ft. Campbell and the huge number of jumps you could get, sometimes 8 per day from 14,000.
No, I never did get around to writing the article. Deployments to Iraq and Afghahnistan, family and general Army stuff got in the way. Did not stop me jumping, though! Reviving a six year old post may be the incentive I need!
Great to hear from you! I did leave suddenly when my three-year enlistment was up. I took terminal leave near the end of December 1985 so that I could start the spring semester at Mississippi State University. Things just got hectic.
One thing that really sucked on my last day before starting terminal leave was that I was scheduled to outprocess one day. On the same day, some of the guys in the 82nd club had managed to get on some ramp jumps from a C-141 at 10,000 and I was supposed to jump my camera with them. So, I showed up very early to be first in line at outprocessing so I could be done and make the mandatory safety briefing with the C-141 crew at 1000. No problem. I get almost to the end of the outprocessing process, which was finance, and they didn't have my records, which were supposed to be sent over. So I had to go over to finance where I didn't have an appointment, get my records and get back to outprocessing. I finished at 1100 and missed the C-141 ramp jumps!! Oh well, it was all good and I have the best memories.
Let me know if you need any help filling in the times from 1978-85. I was very active in the club when I was in high school from 78-80 but was only an inexperienced youngster at the time. Then I was in college in Mississippi from 80-82 and only jumped when I could make it up to Campbell and during the summers. Then a year off from college, 82-83 where I made a lot of jumps at Campbell, then I went into the Army to put back money in order to return to college. So those last 2-3 years I jumped when I could make it back to Campbell.
Probably the most experienced collective knowledge of that time is Billy Colwell, Jr, as he was attending Austen Peay and jumped continuously. I still remember when Billy showed up for the first jump course--he was in high school, just as I was two years earlier. But he passed me in jumps and experience.
I must say that time was really awesome. Great advances were made in the art of skydiving around then, with squares starting to become mature (my first square was the really awful Strato Flyer of 160sq ft and brick shaped), early CRW (I remember getting my UPSA 4-stack patch, as that was unusual at the time), getting your 8-way RW patch (again, this was pretty big stuff at the time), doing some of the first side-by-sides and down-planes (almost banned from one civilian club for doing a "dangerous" down-plane!), etc. The 101st was the first operational user of the Black Hawk and the club started jumping them very shortly after their arrival. Really great times where we pushed the envelope--and safely as well.
Hi Russ It's been a long time. That pic of you at son dz was taken by me. Guy LaBrecque C-13277, Last time we talked I was running down the old gang putting out news about Doug Brown final battle[email].[/email]
I am also deeply saddened by the demise of the Fort Campbell Sport Parachute Club. I recall numerous fond memories of the Demo Jumps I participated in during the years 1979 through 1981 when I was a member of the Demonstration Team.
My Skydiving days ended forever involuntarily shortly after I reported to South Korea in August, 1981. Early my first winter in South Korea I slipped on some sidewalk ice, jamming a hand railing into my lower spine. The Flight Surgeon at my Class II Flight Physical was a Skydiver from Camp Casey. He took an “extra-careful” look at the X-Rays. He told me I could continue Skydiving, but there would likely come the day after a possible rough landing where I would never walk again in my life. The choice was extremely sad, but necessary. My Skydiving days were over after only 4 years in the sport.
I also remember Kurt Eckstein from my days at the Fort Campbell Sport Parachuting Club, and having a few jumps with him. It was a shock to learn he died on the demo jump at Anniston, Alabama.
During my jump days at Fort Campbell I recall some of the names of fellow jumpers at Fort Campbell - Command Sergeant Major “Arnold” (can’t recall last name), Russ Pinney, Paul Bliss, Paul Reynolds, John Shelton, Laurie Beegles, Mike Weber, Max Kohnke, Ed Lally, Doug Harris, Jon Pejka, Vickie Michaels, Don Hinton, Guy LaBrecque, Marsha Bickford, Al Brown, “Rod” Rodriguez, “Stu” Kaufmann, among numerous other names I cannot recall.
I fondly recall the DZ chorus of “case of Beer” for anything/everything done for the first time. I know I bought my share during those years.
Who recalls “Rod” eating refried beans the night before Saturdays and Sundays? He could make everybody gag inside the helicopter and pissing-off more than a couple of the pilots.
Did Leanne Eckstein ever get her Skydiving Equipment home store started? My Telstar Rig and Blue/Red Strato-Cloud were bought through her home-store.
Did John Shelton ever marry the widow of Kurt Eckstein?
Whatever happened to all those photographs that lined the walls of the two Parachute buildings back in 1979 thru 1981 when Mike Weber was taking all the photographs? I recognized myself in the Army Team in Paducah.jpg.
I sure would like getting my hands on some scanned copies, especially where I am in them.
Shortly before I returned from South Korea the 2nd time in 1986, I was notified by mail that there was a fire where my storage goods were kept; I totally lost everything, to include my Skydiving photographs. From all the photographs I had, the only surviving photos were the ones I chanced to have with me in South Korea.
Reminiscing is usually nice, sometimes sad; remember the ageless saying - “You can never go back again.”
(This post was edited by Telstar on Sep 12, 2012, 9:48 PM)
Most of the Clubs pics are gone now. MWR made no provisions for storage.
We got a few shipped to the PDT, but when we went to Iraq, our facility was boxed up and then the building leveled. Many of our pics went in to the old Pre-Ranger bunker, and sadly I did not see them when I came back.