Gray skies and low clouds are the most common views in the North West State of Washington and that did not change for the Gold Demonstration Team during the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Air Expo. Despite the low celling the Gold Team still managed to complete two of the three scheduled jumps over the two day event. Over 200,000 spectators got to witness the team perform a modified low show each day bringing smiles to everyone watching.
The first jump was canceled due to almost no visibility above just a few hundred feet but the next jump on Saturday gave the Gold Team a chance to show off their skills. The time line called for 30 minutes of show time with only 2500 feet of altitude so The Gold Team Leader SFC J.D. Berentis split the show up into three different passes of Swooping, Target Accuracy and CRW. The crowd was amazed as the smaller parachutes flown by 1SG Bryan Schnell, SSG Reese Pendleton and SGT Jeshua Stahler swept across the ground right in front them. Then the larger parachutes slowly floated down showing the control and accuracy the Jumpers have. The last pass brought the excitement of Canopy Relative Work as a Bi-Plane traveled over the people while carrying the Washington State flag.
Sunday the Team was honored to be joined by Medal Of Honor Recipient SFC Leroy Petry who saved several of his fellow Soldiers in Afghanistan when his unit came under attack during a daytime mission. SFC Petry attempted to throw back a grenade that landed near his men when it detonated severing his right hand but saving everyone around. SFC Petry continued to stay in the fight after being wounded and his actions led to several soldiers making it out safely. SFC Joe Jones was scheduled to give SFC Petry a Tandem ride during the show but due to the low clouds the ride was cancelled but he was still thrilled to have gotten to ride up with the Gold Team during the performance.
The low clouds also caused to change in plans for the Team as well. As the jump time approached rain started to fall over the target area forcing the Team to make a mass exit without a narrator pass and combining all of the previous maneuvers from yesterday into a one pass show. The Gold Team came through as always showing the people of Washington why the Golden Knight are the best at what they do. Also during the jump SFC J.D. Berentis and SSG Tom Pryjda put together a Bi-Plane and flew SFC Petry’s Medal of Honor Flag and a Baton which would later be presented to him.
The Team had extra time available while still in Washington so the Recruiting Battalion arranged for most of the Future Soldiers to get together and meet with the Knights at a local recruiting office. Each member told their Army story and what led them to becoming a Golden Knight as well as the other opportunities that have become available to them.
Once a year Wisconsin puts on a show that brings people from all over that state to one place to celebrate our Nation’s Independence. Rhythm & Booms is Madison, Wisconsin’s official Independence Day celebration and the largest single-day event in Wisconsin. The show offers many events to include a 5K run/walk and music stages to entertain everyone before the world-class fireworks performance. The Gold Team had the honor to open the festivities with a mid-day mass formation jump giving the public a preview of what was to come later on that night. Then after the sun went down the Gold Team took to the skies once again to put on an awe inspiring show of the people. Jumpers lit up the sky with their pyro forming a single mass formation that could be seen from miles around. Immediately following the jumpers the largest fireworks display in the state went off drawing the attention of the crowd and the jumpers for over 45 minutes. Over 200,000 people were said to be in attendance for the event which is a record for the Rhythm & Booms.
Shortly after the Gold Team departed Wisconsin they traveled a short distance to Dubuque, Iowa for their 27th annual Independence Day Celebration. Dubuque, Iowa is located in the Tri-State area of Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin so the festival draws a huge crowd from all three states. The Gold Team performed four times in three different locations over the two days they were there. Dubuque is a well known demonstration location for the Golden Knights because of the obscure and tight landing areas. Each of the events the team is given the bare minimum crowd clearance with a landing area surrounded by obstacles leaving the team only one option which is to land on target. The first demonstration was at the Kennedy Mall parking lot on Monday which was basically a preview of the team held in the early afternoon to advertise the festival being held the next day. The landing area was a 100 foot circle surrounded by new cars form the local dealership and plenty of spectators looking forward to watching the jumpers land in front of them. As always the Gold Team delivered a perfect performance and built the confidence of the jumpers for the next jumps to come.
The final two jumps were going to be held at Mcdonald Park which is on the coast of the Mississippi bordering Iowa and Wisconsin. The Air Show was said to of drawn over 225,000 who all were surrounding the target area hoping to catch a glimpse of the jumpers as they landed. The Team performed twice during the celebration one in the afternoon and another during the night to close out the show just before the fireworks. Both performances were a great success especially the night jump because immediately after the jump the team was instantly surrounded by the massive crowd with everyone saying the performance was the greatest thing they had ever seen. The view was impressive from the jumpers
point of view with the ground being lit up by flashes from peoples cameras.
The Army arrived at Tobyhanna located in Pennsylvania in 1912 and a small Artillery Commander was given the assignment to find an appropriate east coast location for an artillery training camp. During that time, the Army’s only artillery training camp east of the Mississippi River was in Wisconsin enev though most of the Army units were in the north east. After inspecting several sites a location near the rail station in Tobyhanna was deemed suitable. The land was leased in August from Dr. George Rhoads, a prominent local resident, and directed the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery to train there. The unit remained in the Poconos until October. That initial camp proved so successful that the Army decided to return the next summer, and to also set up a camp of instruction for militia batteries and a school for militia officers. In the summer of 1913,the 3rd Field Artillery marched to Tobyhanna from Fort Myer, leaving Virginia on June 2 and arriving at Tobyhanna on June 18. The 3rd Field Artillery arrived three days ahead of the first of several militia units, and assisted those units in their training. This was just the beginning for the camp as later it became a POW camp as well as a storage facility for the majority of the military’s obsolete equipment. After the end of World War II the Army realized the camp’s potential for supply and maintenance which had led to its current function of the Military’s largest electronic maintenance facility.
Due to Tobyhanna’s exceptional history it was only fitting that the Gold Demonstration Team put on a performance celebrating the depot’s birthday. The team did three jumps over the weekend with the first one on Friday and the next two on Saturday. The initial jump on Friday was for the Media and was not open to the public. On Saturday the gates were open allowing thousands to gain limited access to the compound to look at the displays and get a chance to see the Golden Knights put on a world class show. After the morning mass show the clouds started to roll in leaving limited visibility of the target area but the team still had a job to do. The team circled at a lower altitude where it was easier to find some holes in the clouds and still managed to complete a couple passes and give the public a great show. After each performance the team was greeted by the command team of the Communications and Electronics Command (CECOM) Major General Robert Ferrell and Command Sergeant Major Kennis Dent. The Commander and Sergeant Major thanked the team for the wonderful job they did as well as presented the Gold team with a plaque showing their appreciation.
The link below is from the local news station and features SFC Dustin Peregrin describing what the Golden Knight are about and what kind of performance the team was going to put on. It also gives a brief history of the camp and what it has turned into.