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Old Army dirt airstrip back in use

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POSTED: April 7, 2014 10:42 a.m.
Photo by Randy C. Murray/

A paratrooper jumps out the back of a C-130 Hercules as it flies over the Remagen Landing Zone on Fort Stewart.

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It had been more than 20 years since a C-130 Hercules has landed on Fort Stewart’s Remagen Landing Zone, but on Wednesday, the dirt strip LZ and drop zone received a lot of air traffic.
The dirt runway recently was repaired and upgraded by units with the New Mexico Army and Air National Guard with help from the Georgia Air National Guard’s Combat Readiness Training Center in Savannah.
According to Fort Stewart public-affairs spokesman Kevin Larson, the $75,000 cost for the upgrade of Remagen DZ/LZ included design, equipment, materials and supplies.
Although Remagen continued to be used as a drop zone for airborne operations after the early 1990s, a change in the installation’s mission allowed it to fall into disrepair. Larson said refurbishing it required upgrading the runway to the required length and meeting “clear zone/glide slope” requirements for training pilots to land a C-130 on a dirt LZ.
Larson said additional refurbishing is planned to improve the existing taxiway to accommodate the C-17. Phase III planning includes making the dirt airstrip fully C-17 capable.
Larson said the closest existing dirt airstrip capable of supporting joint-training scenarios like air drops and landings and providing logistical support to special operations, armored brigade combat teams and infantry brigade combat teams is at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. He said the Combat Readiness Center’s 165th Airlift Wing and 437th Airlift Wing plan to conduct joint logistical support training at Remagen.
The initial training exercise got the scrutiny of area media members Wednesday, who observed two passes of paratroopers as well as landings and takeoffs from Remagen.
Lt. Col. PJ Spisso and Capt. Luke Berreckman, Georgia Air National Guard, explained the significance of the training operation before the first paratroop drop. Spisso first responded to a question about why they were conducting the training by noting these were proficiencies they were required to have as part of their mission.
“I can tell you that flying is just like football,” Spisso said. “You’ve got to practice to get better at it. By having this airstrip here locally, we’re able to become more efficient.”
Berreckman noted that some of the operations can be done at airstrips at Fort Bragg, N.C., which has special operations and infantry brigade combat teams. Fort Bragg, however, does not have an armored brigade combat team and no way to conduct joint training operations with an ABCT, he said. He said having an airstrip on Fort Stewart saves the Department of Defense time and money.
“It’s a big focus for DoD to have joint-training operations,” Berreckman said. “Also, when the services go together on a project like this, it really helps the budgeting process.”
Shortly after their briefing, the operation began with a C-130 making its approach at a jump altitude of 1,250 feet. As the aircraft passed over a predetermined point on the ground, a green light came on in the aircraft and the jumpmaster gave the command to “Go.”
One by one, jumpers began trailing from a large ramp at the rear of the aircraft until all 20 jumpers were in the air. With their parachutes open, the jumpers turned into the wind and glided softly to the ground. They then rolled and stuffed their chute in a kit bag and ran or walked quickly off the drop zone.
Due to a mechanical problem with the second aircraft, the second stick of jumpers didn’t drop until more than an hour later. Following that jump, the aircraft circled the airfield until it was cleared of jumpers, and then it came in for a landing. As soon as it touched down, a cloud of Georgia red-clay dust filled the air behind it. Moments later, the same aircraft kicked up dust again as all four turboprop engines roared to life for a takeoff.
According to lockheedmartin.com, there is no other aircraft in history that can match the “flexibility, versatility and relevance of the C-130 Hercules,” which has been used as a troop-transport aircraft since the 1950s.
Spisso reiterated that having the capability to take off and land C-130s at Fort Stewart’s Remagen DZ/LZ is a great asset to the joint military community.

 

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