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Fort Campbell Sport Parachute Club

Submitted by Chris Reed

The US Army established the Fort Campbell Sport Parachute Club on 16 March 1958 as the first sport parachute club in the Army. It operated from 1958 to 2004.

It all began in 1957 when the Army invited Jaques Istel, was invited to conduct free-fall parachuting demonstrations for the military at Fort Bragg and Fort Campbell. Lieutenant General (then Colonel) Harry W.O. Kinnard, one of the legendary leaders of the 101st during World War II, and now commanding the 501st Airborne Battle Group saw free-fall parachuting as having military application, as well as giving soldiers something fun and challenging to do during their off duty time. Kinnard, along with a group of enthusiastic military parachutists, convinced the Army to rescind its ban on sport parachuting by active duty soldiers. The club had ten charter members. LTG Kinnard served as the first club president, and the G3, LTC (later Major General) Jack Singlaub served as Vice President.

The Fort Campbell sport Parachute Club immediately took the lead in the then new art of free-fall parachuting. A team lead by SFC Alva English competed in the first national parachuting championships in April 1958. The club also sponsored the first Inter-service Military Parachuting Competition conducted at Fort Campbell, 31 May to 2 June 1958. This competition evolved into the Military Nationals. In October of the same year, the Club sponsored the First National Invitational Sport Parachute meet, which drew together 11 military and civilian sport parachute clubs from across the country. This competition drew 10,000 spectators and MG William Westmoreland, then commander of the 101st, made the opening jump.

The Fort Campbell Sport Parachute Club operated until 2004, jumping primarily at Son DZ on Fort Campbell. It produced many skydivers, some of whom went on to make the Golden Knights. It weathered the Vietnam War, and Desert Storm, but could not survive ‘90’s era cutbacks in flight hours. The operation lost much of its financial viability when it lost the use of military aircraft in 2000. The manager worked very hard to secure commercial aircraft and off-post arrangements, but this only delayed the inevitable. After 9-11 the ongoing deployments of the 101st to Afghanistan and Iraq prevented attempts to restore aircraft support. Eventually the installation recreation services office decided to close the club. Its legacy lives on today with the 101st Airborne Division Screaming Eagles Parachute Demonstration Team based at Fort Campbell.