Citing aircraft safety concerns, the U.S. Army cancelled a massive airdrop that served as a major component of the Jade Helm ’15 operation. Five Air Force C-17 Globemasters loaded for war, with more than 500 veteran paratroopers from the legendary 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, looked to unload their human cargo over Texas.
Their target? A small airstrip that needed to be taken from the enemy and held for 96 hours in the late August heat of the Texas Hill Country. A component of “Jade Helm 15” was minutes away from being executed on Tuesday night when the mission was called off.
Army Lt. Colonel Mark Lastoria, cited “aircraft safety concerns” that “didn’t allow for the proper exit of paratroopers or equipment” to the San Antonio Express News for why the Army called off the exercise. But he would not go into more detail if it involved a single aircraft or more than one.
The 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers planned to jump at about 1,200 feet over a sprawling drop zone near the center of Camp Bullis, a rugged 27,000-acre training area in Northwest Bexar County. They were to be part of a 96-hour joint operational exercise that hadn’t been done in at least four years.
Since the commencement of the Global war on Terror in 2001, the U.S. has conducted two major airborne operations. In the first, on the night of 19 October 2001, portions of Companies A and C of the 3rd Ranger Battalion conducted a daring low level parachute assault onto Objective Rhino, a desert airfield in southwestern Afghanistan, to capture key logistical information. The second, on 26 March 2003, occured when 954 soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade conducted a combat jump from C-17 aircraft onto Bashur Airfield in Northern Iraq.
This entire exercise was part of “Jade Helm 15,” a series of training exercises across the entire southwest, stretching from Texas to California, and covering parts of seven states. But this year drew widely-publicized predictions by conspiracy theorists of a mass government takeover.
The planned night drop at Camp Bullis was less routine. Lt. Col. Lastoria had called it “a first for U.S. Army Special Operations Command in regard to its scope and scale.”
The airborne troops were part of a mock airfield assault in a fictional country in support of a six-member Special Forces “A team” working with insurgents. Exercises like these have been rare since the start of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which have consumed the command’s 28,000 soldiers over the past 14 years.
The C-17 cargo aircraft allows 100 paratroopers and equipment to fly around the world at close to 500 miles an hour, and is the preferred delivery method for US paratroops. Airborne, Rangers, Special Forces and SEALS. They can jump from side doors, or off the tail ramp. It has been operational for more than 20 years.
The Camp Bullis training area is part of Joint Base San Antonio and serves a number of different operations in the area, acting as the classroom for the Army’s Field medical training evolution, where combats medics and entire field hospitals set up in a primitive environment to put their training to the test. It also is used as a training site for the Air Force and National Guard, who use the firing ranges with their M-16’s and smaller crew-served weapons. It also serves as the training area for the Air Force’s Air Base Ground Defense Forces.
And for trivia buffs, the base was used in the 1924 movie Rough Riders and in 1930 for the filming of Wings the first movie to win a “Best Picture” Academy Award.
Rob Milford is a news contributor to Breitbart Texas. You can follow him on Facebook.