Edwards AFB drop zones will honor parachutist who died in training jump
By CHAD GARLAND | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 24, 2019
A master parachutist who died in a training exercise in southern California this month will have two drop zones dedicated in his honor at Edwards Air Force Base, officials said.
One of the areas will be called “Rick Drop Zone” in a nod to the nickname of Staff Sgt. Adam Erickson, 29, who was killed on Sept. 10 during a routine military proficiency jump, Master Sgt. Brandon Fountain said during a memorial service at one of the base’s chapels on Friday.
Erickson was a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialist who was certified as a test parachutist and served as noncommissioned officer in charge of parachutist program operations with the 412th Operations Support Squadron, a base statement said.
Since his death, many have rallied to show support for his family and colleagues, including providing motorcades to escort his teammates to their hotel the day he died and for his family on the day of his burial last week, officials said.
“We’ve cried a lot for Adam,” said Fountain, superintendent of the SERE/Test Parachute Program at the base, was quoted as saying in the statement. “But I can promise you that most of those tears had been from laughing.”
The Ojai, Calif.-native was posthumously awarded a Meritorious Service medal, which 412th Operations Group commander Col. Timothy Spaulding presented to Erickson’s mother, Karen.
“Thank you for making him the wonderful, loving, smart, funny and ridiculous perfect man that he was,” Fountain told the Erickson family. “Saying Adam will be missed is a massive understatement, he very clearly enhanced every life that he touched.”
Erickson had deployed to Qatar to support battlefield personnel recovery operations in U.S. Central Command in 2016 and had served as a jumpmaster on a deployment to Romania this year.
Calling him a “phenomenal jumpmaster,” Fountain said he had earned the coveted master parachutist rating just weeks before his death.
The days since his death have been “full of mixed emotions,” said 412th Test Wing Command Chief Master Sgt. Ian Eishen in a Facebook post on Saturday, thanking members of the Air Force and the community for various forms of support.
Donors rallied to raise more than $23,000 to ensure family, friends and others could travel to attend Erickson’s funeral last week near his hometown. Erickson’s sister has said some of that money would be used for memorials at Edwards and in Ojai.
“When Adam’s prior Group Chief Marc Allen took leave to fly back to the area to help this team grieve and asked what he could do, the family said they needed help with yardwork” before the large gathering of family arrived for the funeral, Eishen said. “So Marc got to work.”
A caravan of airmen traveled to that ceremony, “to ensure a sea of blue service dress uniforms” was present, including more than 70 members of the SERE community who shared stories of Erickson’s life with his family, Eishen said.
Listening to family stories “confirmed how lucky we were to know you,” Eishen said. “Thank you, Adam.”