Sunday, November 15, 2009

Original smokejumper, PJ trainer dies at 98

Earl Cooley, the Montanan smokejumper pioneer who also first trained USAF Pararescuemen, has died at 98 years of age in Missoula.

I spent a summer once fighting fire, and another working as a volunteer wilderness ranger for the Forest Service, and found out about smokejumping. Later, when I was at the UMT Forestry School's Wilderness Institute, I met a lot of former and current smokejumpers. One nice duty I drew was to take seniors on summer outings each Friday afternoon. One venue was the smokejumper base at the Missoula airport, where the seniors would get a tour and a talk from a jumper. I met a couple of the original jumpers, including a fellow who had been an Amishman before volunteering for smokejumper duty during WW2.

Later on I learned from guys I knew in Pararescue that there had been this contribution from the smokejumpers at the founding of the USAF service.

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