19. Airborne Operation Photos - The Dignitary Viewing Stands at Sicily Drop Zone, Fort Bragg, NC. - June 14, 1984

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The Bleachers at the edge of Sicily Drop Zone. Fort Bragg was an open base, meaning there was no gate with a security guard checking IDs, so anyone could have driven out to see a jump. (I believe, however, that base security has become tighter, especially since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.) On special occasions they would hold Capability Exercises or Military Demonstrations for Dignitaries, e.g. Heavy Equipment Drops or LAPES: Low Altitude Parachute Extraction System. Guests could watch from the bleachers, and VIPs might have seating in the boxed in area in the foreground.

To the left in the photo was an area of hard packed ground. C-130s would land on that area of Sicily Drop Zone, pick up jumpers and take off again, especially for scheduled weekend Proficiency Jumps, a.k.a. "Fun Jumps". Prop wash from the planes cleared away most of the loose sand. My first jump at Fort Bragg was on "Signal Day", which was a special event for the 82nd Signal Battalion held at the edge of Sicily Drop Zone. I jumped from a Huey Helicopter and landed in the middle of a softball game that was going on in the area of hard packed dirt. The helicopter ride was fun, sitting in the doorway, feet dangling out, and the jump was fun, but the ground was really hard where I landed. The little girl in white is the daughter of one of the guys in our unit. His family came out to see him jump.

That's Carlos Urrutia, @ left, by the metal fence