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Fort Bragg colonel killed in accident was using different parachute, spokesman says

Vice President Joe Biden takes a moment to speak with Lt. Col. Darron Wright, right, the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division deputy commanding officer, and Maj. William Voorhies, the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division executive officer, while visiting troops in Iraq on Jan. 23, 2010.

The decorated Army officer who was killed during a parachute accident at Fort Bragg, N.C. earlier this week was jumping with a parachute his unit doesn't usually use, an Army spokesman said.

Col. Darron L. Wright, the 18th Airborne Corps assistant chief of staff, died during a jump at Fort Bragg's Sicily Drop Zone. His death is under investigation.

Wright, of Mesquite, Texas, was using an MC-6 parachute, which is more maneuverable that the T-11 parachute usually used by corps paratroopers.

"We don't normally jump with that chute," said Col. Kevin Arata, a Fort Bragg spokesman.

Soldiers at Fort Bragg began using the square T-11 parachute in 2009, because testing showed that it could handle more weight and would give paratroopers a slower descent than its predecessor, the T-10.

Paratroopers have to go through special training before jumping with the MC-6, Arata said. The investigation will determine what went wrong during Wright's jump, he said.

"There are so many types of things that can happen," Arata said.

Soldiers using the MC-6 can steer away from other jumpers after the parachute opens, Arata said. The paratroopers can turn left or right by pulling a toggle on the parachute.

"You can turn that thing on a dime," Arata said.

The Army Times reported in 2008 that the Army was working on the MC-6 to replace the MC-1 parachute typically used by special operations troops. The new parachute was intended to give soldiers more maneuverability and greater canopy control with fewer injuries, the paper reported.

Arata said the jump on Monday included soldiers from the corps headquarters staff.

Wright, 46, drew up plans for corps operations. He had been at Fort Bragg for several months. Wright memorialized his 2009-10 tour in Iraq in a memoir, “Iraq Full Circle.”

Lt. Gen. Joe Anderson, commander of the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg, said soldiers on post are saddened by Wright's death.

"The 18th Airborne Corps has sustained the loss of a superb paratrooper and a magnificent officer who served with marked distinction and honor throughout his career," Anderson said.

Wright's deputy, Lt. Col. Michael Moore, called Wright an outstanding leader and a patriot.

"The entire G5 team is saddened and shocked by this tragedy," he said. "We will truly miss his leadership, experience and energy."

Wright graduated from the University of North Texas in 1991 and received his commission as an infantry officer through the Reserve Officers' Training Corps.

Wright's previous assignments include 1st Corps, Fort Lewis, Wash.; 4th Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.; 1st Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Fort Polk, La.; and 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with V device, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal with four oak leaf clusters, Army Achievement Medal with three oak leaf clusters, National Defense Service Medal with bronze service star, Iraqi Campaign Medal with campaign star, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Army Overseas Service Ribbon, Air Assault, Combat Infantry Badge, Expert Infantry Badge, Ranger Tab, and Senior Parachutist Badge.

Wright is survived by his wife and three children.

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