The West Virginia National Guard has entered into an agreement with West Virginia University to use property in Reedsville for airborne drop zone operations close to nearby Camp Dawson, according to a news release from National Guard officials.
Currently, National Guard units stage at Camp Dawson and then travel more than 40 miles across state lines to areas like Red House, Md., to execute their jumps, placing a logistical strain on the units and reducing their overall training opportunities, officials said.
These operations include Special Forces and other soldiers parachuting from helicopters and airplanes and can happen year-round, weather permiting, the release said.
The new drop zone in Reedsville is half the distance away from Camp Dawson as current drop zones. It will allow for more training cycles per day and is safer for soldiers and airmen because first responders and trauma centers are closer, officials mentioned.
“There are multiple benefits to having a drop zone closer to Camp Dawson,” said Camp Dawson Post Commander and Base Operations Manager U.S. Army Maj. Jason Diaz.
“When approached by the West Virginia National Guard to potentially allow them to make use of our property to enhance their training opportunities, it seemed like the right thing to do,” said Matt Wilson, Associate Dean for research in the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design. “We’re happy to provide a location that adds an additional margin of safety for soldiers and airmen,” Wilson said.
The West Virginia University JW Ruby Research Farm and Hazel Ruby McQuain Equine Education and Resource Center is located in Reedsville.
“We see this agreement with WVU, who has always been an ardent supporter of the West Virginia National Guard, as an opportunity to help further build capabilities and partnerships locally in Preston County,” said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, Adjutant General of the West Virginia National Guard. “By keeping the training in the Preston County area rather than out of state, it adds to the ever-increasing positive economic impact Camp Dawson provides the local community and state,” Hoyer said.
Residents of Reedsville and the surrounding area can expect to see an increase in military aircraft, including possibly C-130Hs, and National Guard presence in the near future, officials said.
The first airborne drop operations at the new property are scheduled for May 2019, according to the news release.