JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Joint Base Lewis-McChord's Capt. Jared Foley and his crew in a C-17 Globemaster III were ready to turn back home after a paratrooper landed outside of a planned drop zone on a July 2011 training exercise, according to testimony at Foley's court-martial.
The West Virginia National Guard parachutist jumped from the plane's fifth pass over a Montana landing zone, and the error caused the crew to cancel a planned sixth and seventh run.
Then an Army safety officer on the ground called the C-17 crew with a new assessment: The paratrooper missed his drop zone because of his own errors. The Army officer told the Air Force crew they were clear for more jumps.
Suddenly Foley's Air Force crew no longer considered that flawed jump on their fifth pass an "off drop zone" landing that would have compelled them to terminate their exercise.
Foley consulted his team and Army safety officers and went back for a sixth pass, the one that led to the death of Army Sgt. Francis "Frank" T. Campion III of Hollidaysburg when he landed on a building outside of his drop zone.
Two members of Foley's crew recounted those events in court Wednesday at Lewis-McChord, where Foley is on trial for one count of reckless endangerment and three of dereliction of duty.
Prosecutors argued that the pilot didn't follow Air Force regulations by giving the OK for the sixth pass over Marshall Air Field in Montana. He should have ended the mission when one Guardsman landed outside of the drop zone on the fifth pass, according to two different regulations they displayed before a court-martial panel made up of 10 Air Force officers.
Foley's defense attorney countered that the pilot should not be judged with perfect, "20-20 hindsight." Instead, Capt. Sarah Carlson argued, Foley's actions should be considered in the context of the circumstances he and his crew encountered on the day of the fatal airdrop.
Prosecutors played a video of what happened on that sixth pass. Three paratroopers generally stay close to each other in the air, landing in a grass field.
A fourth stays in the air a little longer. He crashes into a rooftop with his helmet flying off the building.
Wednesday in court, Foley had several Army and Air Force supporters sitting behind him, including a squadron commander from Lewis-McChord's 62nd Airlift Wing.
Two of Campion's relatives from Pennsylvania also are in court.