In the pre-dawn hours of March 15, 2019, Sgt. 1st Class Ethan Carpenter and his fellow Rangers were jumping with full combat equipment, oxygen masks, and night vision goggles. This is known as a full locker jump.
The team would have spent hours in preparation prior to getting in the aircraft. This would have included refresher training if needed, pre-combat checks, and inspections of all equipment. The team would have received briefings from the jumpmaster regarding the drop zone and, independently of their preexisting familiarity. The team was ready.
According to the official report, after exiting the aircraft, one jumper experienced a parachute malfunction. He then collided with Carpenter, who was then seen parachuting in the wrong direction and into the trees surrounding the drop zone in Arizona.
Sgt 1st Class Ethan Carpenter, who had been assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia’s Regimental Special Troops Battalion, died of his injuries after a free-fall jump. Carpenter was a reconnaissance specialist assigned to the elite 75th Ranger Regiment’s special troops battalion at Fort Benning in Georgia.
It is my opinion that SFC Carpenter may have died on impact with the other jumper. The report says that he was seen parachuting in the wrong direction, which may indicate that he was unconscious at the time.
The Military Free-Fall Parachutist Course (MFFPC) taught me to follow the jumper one below me and if I was the lowest, to lead the stack to the DZ. Should a jumper have gotten out of the stack for whatever reason, the stack would then followed him. Additionally, all jumpers would have been wearing some kind of marking system such as chem lights on their helmets. This didn’t happen here.
The jumper that collided with Carpenter experienced a partial malfunction known as “premature brake line release” that “could cause a jumper to immediately enter into a violent turn in one direction,” the investigation states. This is exactly what it sounds, some of the lines which brake the parachute broke. These lines would have been checked when packing the parachute.
The jumper, who was not named in the report, “performed corrective action exactly as briefed upon identifying the malfunction and is at no fault.”
Becoming a Ranger is no easy task at all. To become a Ranger one has to complete the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program, known as RASP.
All sergeants (E-5) and above in the 75th Ranger Regiment must be Ranger qualified. They must all successfully complete the U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga. It is the Army’s premier leadership school. For the most part, all newly assigned Rangers of the 75th Ranger Regiment typically attend Ranger School after multiple combat deployments.
Passing the Military Free-Fall Parachutist Course (MFFPC) is difficult, although the instructors do their best to calm the students. My class had a 75 percent graduation rate from what is a very, self-induced, stressful course.
While in MFFPC students learn how to pack the RA-1 Advanced Ram-Air Parachute System (ARAPS) main parachute and how to don the System. They are taught aircraft and emergency procedures, and body stabilization. Students learn to exit an aircraft from the door and ramp using dive and poised exit positions. They also learn rigging/jumping procedures for weapons, combat equipment, night vision goggles (NVG), and portable oxygen equipment.
Military Free-Fall parachute operations during the course consist of a High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) and High Altitude High Opening (HAHO) parachute jumps from altitudes of 10,000 to 25,000 feet. These are done with weapons and combat equipment (including NVGs and body armor) but also without. They are also performed with supplemental oxygen systems both in day and night conditions.
Each jump was different and challenging, and we did multiple per day. There were only a couple of “fun jumps,” which happened only if you were a first time GO on a test and could relax the following jump.
The military implemented some changes as a result of the accident. One of them is that in Free-Fall operations all jumpers should have radios. But why was this not the standard to begin with?
Not all the details surrounding the event are known. If all of Carpenter’s team members were carrying the cheap ICOM radios they had in the schoolhouse, it is plausible that they could have found him sooner than they did: another jumper could have radioed his location in potentially.
According to the investigation report, Carpenter was unfortunately pronounced dead at the scene after his fellow Rangers finally found him nearly two hours later.
We at SOFREP offer our deepest condolences to the Carpenter family. RLTW