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Smokejumpers practice

A U.S. Forest Service smokejumper turns into the wind preparing to land Wednesday afternoon during a refresher jump in the blustery weather. Several veteran firefighters made jumps to a spot in Butler Creek northwest of Missoula in advance of the fire season.  

I read Rob Chaney's (June 7) article with great interest and with a unique and extensive history of the subject matter presented therein.

While I am not familiar with CIA covert activities in support of Tibetan resistance in the 1950s and 1960s involving smokejumpers, I am extremely qualified to discuss remote airborne operations, having done so in Southeast Asia during the 1960s. Our drops into classified regions involved high altitude (25,000 feet), low openings (2,500 feet), always at night. Our missions were resupplied by Air America, watched over and supported by the CIA, but always conducted and controlled by the U.S. Army.

I cannot recall any instance in which CIA-supported smokejumpers dropped in on us in locations that shall remain unnamed. This is not to say that Chaney's article wasn't accurate, especially his reporting of events that took place in the 1950s, but most of the airborne training and direct missions of the CIA during the 1960s were conducted by the U.S. Army's Special Forces.

I certainly do not wish to refute any of the content of his article since much of its content took place well before my time.

Like the courageous members of the smokejumper community, U.S. Special Forces members are not prone to braggadocio but sometimes some of their feats should be made public so that everyday citizens can understand and appreciate the sacrifice and dangers these communities have made to secure our liberty and freedom.

Regardless, it is always a pleasure to learn of the exploits of the smokejumpers, covert or open! My thanks to Rob Chaney.

Thomas R. Hawks,

U.S. Army colonel (retired),

Seabeck, Wash.

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