JBLM pilot faces charges in death of paratrooper
By ADAM ASHTON | The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.) | Published: December 10, 2012
The Air Force is prosecuting a Joint Base Lewis-McChord pilot for a 2011 training accident that led to the death of a Special Forces paratrooper.
Capt. Jared Foley faces six months in prison for each of three counts of dereliction of duty and up to one year of confinement for another charge of reckless endangerment, according to an 18th Air Force spokesman.
His court-martial is scheduled to begin Tuesday at Lewis-McChord.
Foley was the pilot of a C-17 Globemaster III during a daytime training exercise in Montana that went awry when parachutist Sgt. Francis Campion from the West Virginia National Guard landed outside a planned drop zone.
The Air Force accuses Foley of recklessly endangering Campion's life on that July 10, 2011, mission by clearing an additional airdrop without gaining approval from his operations command.
Campion reportedly was the last one out of the plane during windy conditions. He was supposed to land at Fort Harrison's Marshall Field, but wound up on a roof and fell to his death.
At the time, the Lewis and Clark County coroner speculated that a gust of wind caught the chute and dragged Campion off the building.
"He wasn't injured upon the impact with the roof, but when he was knocked over and fell off. He had no buoyancy from the chute," Lewis and Clark County Coroner Mickey Nelson told the Helena Independent Record.
Nelson further said the parachute was sound.
"In my opinion, the chute didn't fail and there wasn't any operator error," Nelson told the newspaper. "He was very experienced. He was doing everything right."
Campion, of Holidaysburg, Pa., served with the 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group of the National Guard. He deployed to Afghanistan in 2008 and received multiple awards and ribbons for his service.
Campion was an outdoorsman who earned a degree in environmental studies from Pennsylvania State University Altoona, according to his obituary in the Altoona Mirror. He also was an experienced Army paratrooper in Special Forces airborne units.
Foley serves with McChord's 62nd Operations Support Squadron of the 62nd Airlift Wing. The Air Force declined to release information about his service record. Air Force Times reported that Foley has been selected for promotion to major.
Air Force prosecutors and Foley's military defense attorney declined to comment through an Air Force spokesman.
The Air Force accuses Foley of reckless conduct for his alleged approval of the late jump. His three counts of dereliction of duty are:
--Failing to refrain from executing an additional airdrop after passing a drop zone.
--Failing to obtain approval to carry out that jump.
--Failing to enter accurate data into his mission computer.
The 62nd Airlift Wing continually deploys C-17 crews to missions in the Middle East, where pilots deliver troops and supplies to forward bases in a region stretching from East Africa to Afghanistan.
McChord Air Field is one of the Air Force's largest hubs for C-17 transport jets, with 51 of the $250 million machines stationed here. The airmen in the 62nd can be tapped to train on joint-service exercises around the country.