Golden Knights Go Back to Their Roots at Raeford, NC

SSG Drew Starr, SSG Justin Blewitt, SSG Laura Dickmeyer, and SGT Jen Schaben demonstrate proper door position for a 4-way exit (photo by SGT Rachel Medley)

Forty years ago, the sport of skydiving was a somewhat obscure pastime marked with the stereotype of long haired hippies and crazy people. Because it was such a new sport, regulations were spotty and inconsistent at best. The equipment was still in its early stages of development and there was very little standardization in the industry. In 1967 the United States parachute Association (USPA) was established, and as the years went by and regulations and equipment got better and safer.

The Golden Knights were part of this growth and development from the beginning, from their inception in 1959 to their current status as the world’s premier parachute demonstration team and world-class formation competition team. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Golden Knights (along with other civilian and military pioneers in the sport) were responsible for countless advances in equipment and safety procedures. (More about the history of skydiving can be found at

SSG Laura Dickmeyer (bottom right) and SSG Justin Blewitt face off and explain proper body position during the formation practice, while SPC Tim O'neal of Tandem Team looks on. The creepers have wheels and allow the jumpers to simulate how the formation will build in freefall (photo by SGT Rachel Medley)

In the spirit of giving back to the sport and raising up a new generation of well-rounded and safety-conscious skydivers, several members of the Golden Knights spent their Saturday at the local drop zone at Raeford, NC jumping with civilian jumpers of all different skill levels. The event, which was a 4-way formation skills camp, was organized and run by SSG Laura Dickmeyer of the Golden Knights women’s 4-way competition team.

The day started at 8 AM with a brief overview of formation skydiving: how to take grips, proper body position, safe aircraft exits, and most importantly, teamwork. The participants were then organized into groups of four and each group did a total of four jumps throughout the day. Each team progressed to more challenging formations as the day went on based on their success with previous jumps. After each jump the participants gathered for a detailed video debrief and block of instruction for the next jump.

“This is a skills camp for new jumpers who are just coming off student status, or have low jump numbers who have never really been exposed to 4-way, or have never been involved in competition skydiving,” says Laura, who first started skydiving at Westex Skysports near her hometown of Abeline, TX before joining the Army and coming to NC. “We used to have several civilian 4-way teams out here at Raeford, and that has fallen by the wayside recently. Basically, I am taking the experienced jumpers and bringing them together with the not-so-experienced people. I’m hoping to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and experience, passing it on to the new jumpers.”

After each jump, the participants grab a bite to eat during debrief. A proper debrief uses constructive criticism and positive reinforcement to help each team improve for the next jump. Here, SSG Drew Starr and SSG Laura Dickmeyer use video footage from the jump as learning points for the students (photo by SGT Rachel Medley)

The most important thing she hopes to bring to the skills camp? “Teamwork,” she says. “Working together towards a common goal on each skydive. Debrief after every jump is also important,” she adds. “Over the years, we as a team have worked out a way to debrief where it’s most effective and you get the most benefit out of it.” The entire women’s 4-way team, members of the men’s 8-way team, the competition team’s videographer, and two members of the Tandem Team came out to jump for the event. This made it possible to have at least one GK on every team during the event.

SSG Dickmeyer, who now has more than 3000 freefall jumps, has been planning the event for several weeks. She originally brought the idea to her supervisor a few months back. “I’m an instructor out here [at the Raeford Drop Zone] and I know a lot of the jumpers. This is something the jumpers out here have been hoping for.” Her boss thought it was a great idea, so she went forward with the planning. “The team has been very supportive by letting us jump our team gear and using training jump tickets for our jumps. The students are not the only ones who gain something from this…it’s good training for us as well!” she says. The Team’s support enabled her to offer the camp completely free of charge (except the price of their jump tickets of course) to all of the civilian participants.

Overall the camp was a huge success and the participants are looking forward to the next event.

  • Bert Sousa

    Good to see the Golden Knights are still the best. Its been a long time since they were using Para Commanders..

    (USPA #1980)

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