On this date, 31 years ago, Sept. 21, 1981: 2nd Ranger Battalion CDR Lt. Col. William E. Powell, and Rangers Cpt. Gregory E. Gardner, Sgt. 1st Class Jimmie D. Bynum, Spc. John P. Critselous, Pvt. Kevin E. Langley, Pfc. Lonnie J. Furr paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
These Rangers were assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Infantry, and died as a result of injuries sustained when the Air Force C-130 they were on, crashed while conducting a combat training mission at Indian Springs Air Force Base, Nevada. Also killed, was Chief Warrant Officer 3 John Williams from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
The Air Force C-130 cargo plane crashed and exploded "like a bomb" during night-time military maneuvers near a desert runway, killing seven soldiers and injuring 61 others. The troops who survived the crash escaped from side exits in the rear just before fire reached the fuel tanks, turning the craft into an inferno on the Nevada desert. "The plane missed the field. It hit the ground, sheared off its undercarriage and skidded several hundred feet before coming to a stop," said Air Force Col. Mike Wallace.
"The fuel was seeping and it caught fire. Not until the fire spread did the pyrotechnics catch on fire." "That gave the troops in the back an opportunity to escape through the side exits. If it had been a normal crash the plane would have been a fireball," Wallace said.
The fuel fire triggered a series of smaller explosions inside the aircraft led by pyrotechnics, flares and smoke grenades. The C-130 hit the ground one mile short of the darkened Air Force landing strip. Wallace said it was common for the air base to be dark and without landing lights during night training.
The troops undergoing were assigned to Fort Lewis, Wash. A few army observers from Fort Campbell, Ky., were on board, according to a Fort Lewis Air Force spokesman said. All of the C-130 Texas-based crewmen survived, but were hospitalized at nearby Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., for observation suffering from sprains and bruises.
The Army identified the six Rangers killed as:
Lt. Col. WILLIAM E. POWELL, 42, from Annandale, Va.
Capt. GREGORY E. GARDNER, 34, from Huntsville, Ala.
Pvt. KEVIN E. LANGLEY, 19, from Pampa, Texas.
Pfc. LONNIE J. FURR, 22, from Rixeyville, Va.
Spec. 4 JOHN P. CRITSELOUS, 20, from Knoxville, Tenn.
Staff Sgt. JIMMIE D. BYNUM, 34, from Waxahachie, Texas.
The seventh Officer killed was from the 160th SOAR
Chief Warrant Officer 3rd Class JOHN WILLIAMS, 32, Yelm, Wash.