Dakota Thunder


The Gold Demonstration Team completed another successful air show weekend in the clear blue skies over the rolling Black Hills at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota. Ellsworth AFB is located only 35 minutes from Mount Rushmore. Several of the Team members were able to make the drive to visit the well-known American landmark, and were inspired by its beauty. The Golden Knights and service members around the world strive to emulate the type of teamwork and dedication achieved by the pioneers who constructed Mount Rushmore.

During the Dakota Thunder Air show weekend, the Gold Demonstration Team completed three parachute jumps and conducted multiple television, radio, and newspaper interviews, wrapping up the weekend with a special visit to a local WWII vet who was unable to come to the air show.

SSG Matt Acord and SGT Rachel Medley of the GK Tandem Section augmented the Gold Demonstration Team to complete three parachute jumps from 12,500 feet. At 7:30 pm Friday, the Golden Knight team members opened the show, painting the blue sky with streaks of red smoke in a six-man freefall formation. Saturday the team completed two similar mass formation jumps, followed by a maneuver known as canopy relative work.  SFC JD Berentis and SGT Richard Sloan linked their canopies together in midair and flew them to the target area.

Saturday evening after the Air show was completed, members of the Golden Knights made the 30 minute drive to visit World War II vet Mr. Mel Parlet. Mel is a native of Rapid City, SD and has attended every air show at Ellsworth AFB for the past 50 years. Due to illness, this was the first air show he could not attend, so the Team came to him. He regaled the jumpers with stories of his days overseas as a medic on flights from mainland Europe to England on a C-47 with wounded Soldiers on board. He was immensely touched that the Golden Knights came to see him, and the visit left each of the Team members with a deeply renewed reverence and gratitude for our veterans.

We would like to thank Mel and the many other service members who continue to risk their lives daily to promote freedom and protect the American way of life. Blue skies!

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