On March 23, 1994, 24 paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division were killed in Pope Air Field Base after an Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon and a C-130 Hercules collided in mid-air. The F-16 then hurtled to the ground, crashing into a C-141 that was preparing to carry paratroopers to a jump planned for later that afternoon. 

A fireball from the burning jet fuel hit over 500 paratroopers preparing for the airborne operations. Sixteen paratroopers died initially, eight others would later die from the horrible burns suffered, the last of which would pass away nearly a year later. It was the worse single-day loss of life suffered by the 82nd since World War II. 

In the early afternoon of March 23, the conditions were perfect for an airborne operation. It was a clear, sunny day with temperatures in the 60s with no wind, a rare, sought-after day in the life of paratroopers who don’t often get those conditions. 

Back then, the “Green Ramp” of Pope Air Force Base was quite different from today and had a large personnel shed, a “pax shed” that could hold several hundred paratroopers preparing to jump. It was located on the west side of Pope’s runway. It was an area that all paratroopers knew quite well and was seemingly always in operation.