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Stars, Stripes, and Sun

Well, a little sun that is. Over the weekend Black Demonstration Team arrived in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and as is typical in southern Florida this time of year, a mix of sun, clouds, wind, and rain arrived as well. Friday evenings jump into Huizenga Park proved as difficult an operation as Black Team has conducted all year, with winds nearing the upper limits of the team’s capabilities. But with Team 6 Aviators at the controls of the C-31 Friendship Aircraft, high anticipation from the jumpers of a combined Black and Gold Team, and a brief lull in the winds, the crowd welcomed the Golden Knights first jumper into the landing area with cheers and applause. It just so happened that jumper was SGT David Echeverry, who is actually from Ft Lauderdale. “It is a privilege to have my family and friends here for this jump. What an honor to be able to represent The United States Army in the city where I grew up”, said SGT Echeverry.

Saturday’s night jump proved to be just as difficult. As the clouds rolled in with the dark of night, Black Team exited the aircraft from just above 7 thousand feet with night pyrotechnics ignited. Gusting winds challenged 8 jumpers to rely on all their skill to land each black and gold canopy on a small stretch of beach barely 100” by 100” wide. With all the precision you’ve come to expect from the Golden Knights, each jumper landed right on target.

Following each jump over the weekend, the team was greeted by Ft Lauderdale’s Mayor Seiler. Following Friday’s jump, the Mayor presented the team with a “Key to the City”, inviting the Golden Knights back to Ft Lauderdale anytime. The team then presented the Mayor and the CEO of the Miami Dolphins, Mike Dee, with 2 footballs which were flown in by the jumpers. Owner Mike Dee then asked SFC Brian Sealing, in a surprise invitation, to “bring the team back down to jump into the Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots game on December 2nd.” SFC Sealing gladly accepted the invitation by simply replying “Deal!”

Golden Knights Win Gold!

The Golden Knights Female 4-Way strike Gold!  This past week, the team traveled to Prostejov, Czech Republic for the 2012 World Parachuting Cup in Formation Skydiving.  GKF4 arrived the Friday prior to the opening ceremonies in order to conduct training jumps.  These jumps were important for a variety of reasons.  Not only would the jetlag from the long trip be hard to overcome, the aircraft used for the competition was a Turbolet.  The team almost exclusively trains from a UV-18 Twin Otter so the door and the exit from the Turbolet needed worked on.  The door of the Turbolet is slightly more narrow and taller than a Twin Otter.  The placement of the bar, which is used by the team as a hand hold, is also different.  By the time Monday, the official practice day, was over, GKF4 had made 10 jumps at Dropzone Prostejov. 

GKF4 competed in the Women’s 4-way Formation Skydiving category.  As you may know, they are also the US Team for the 2012 Mondial in Dubai this December.  Although the list of teams who will be competing there is not official yet, two other female teams they will face competed in Prostejov; Norway’s Polaris and France’s Aerodyne Deep Blue Defenders.  At the World Cup, Polaris joined GKF4 in the Women’s category while the Deep Blue Defenders competed in the Open class.  France and GKF4 did not directly compete, but the competition was still one of the highlights of the meet.  GKF4 has gone up against France on two previous occasions; the 2011 World Cup and the 2012 Paraclete XP Outdoor Skydiving Championships (the Shamrock Showdown).  At both of these competitions, France has beaten GKF4.  In fact, GKF4 had not outright won a round against them yet.  This changed in Prostejov. 

Day One of the competition brought the first four rounds.  Three of these rounds were technical in nature and not the fastest to get through.  The other round was much quicker, containing mostly Random formations.  Inside Center of GKF4, Laura Dickmeyer said, “That first day of competition was probably the most in tune we have been as a team.  We went up and let it loose.  We gave it our all and it worked.  All the hard work up to that point was paying off.”  At the end of the day, the Team had won three of the four rounds, tied the other, and was up 3 and 11 points on France and Norway, respectively. 

Day Two brought, what the commentators called, faster rounds.  The good energy of the previous day continued, although with a little more pressure.  Small mistakes on two of the rounds cost GKF4 a little ground.  There was also a fast slot-switcher that the French really amped it up for.  As the sun set on Day Two, GKF4 had won two rounds, while France won the other two.  Final standings of the day put GKF4 one single point ahead of France and 22 points ahead of Norway. 

The last two rounds of 4-way were held for the last day of competition, Thursday.  Round 9 for GKF4 started off a little rough with a mistimed exit.  They recovered but not without sacrificing a few points at a crucial time.  This, combined with a good jump for France, put GKF4 one point down going into the final round.  Norway also had a good round with a 17.  Due to a rule dispute in the Open class, GKF4 boarded the plane with Norway and completed Round 10 almost a full hour before France was even on a call.  With the final round done, the Team could relax a little, collect their thoughts and grab a quick lunch.  To add to the drama of the final round, all video had to be turned in to the judges before any of it was to be scored.  As a crowd gathered to watch the live judging, teams intermingled to get the best view.  Of the 4-way, Norway was scored first.  They received a final score of 16 due to one bust.  GKF4 was next.  They scored a 19.  This meant France would have to score a 17 or less for GKF4 to beat them.  A handful of Open class teams were judged.  France was next.  A less than stellar exit started the dive slow and a bust on a cataccord was costly.  The final score was 16.  GKF4 not only won Gold in their category, but proved they are true contenders for the upcoming Mondial in Dubai.

This is only the beginning of this story as GKF4, France and Norway make their ways back home, most definitely to train.  Next stop for GKF4 is the US National Skydiving Championships in Eloy, AZ at the end of October.  Until then, they will be training harder than before, pushing each other further, going faster, and all the while knowing their competition is doing the same.  Blue Skies!

Don’t forget to keep track of GKF4’s progress at www.facebook.com/USArmyGKF4

 

Skydive Chicago

Fifteen excited people ventured through the gloomy clouds in hope of experiencing the thrill of a lifetime. The room was full of chattering and laughter as team members talked to people throughout the room waiting for everyone to arrive.

SFC Joe Jones began the tandem training, showed the wavier and gave an in-depth explanation about the tandem equipment that would be used during their personal tandem jump. Each individual tandem team member was introduced and gave their own personal Army story.

Unfortunately the ceiling stayed low and rains moved in and the jumps had to be delayed until the next day.

Tuesday morning the land was covered with dense fog and finally the sun broke through to form a glorious day for Gold Star Family members, which celebrated and faced fears with relief filled tears, joy and laughter.

Craig Belt was here last year with his wife Barbara but couldn’t jump due to the weight limit. Craig was determined to jump and reached a goal of losing 75lbs just so he could jump this year.

Then the 3rd ROTC Brigade Black Hawk Centers of Influence began their journey to 13,500 feet. Fourteen very different people from different walks of life and ages joined into a unified team to share the Army Strong Experience.

Erin Levschel an English Teacher was a bundle of nerves and said, “I am totally petrified, and I can’t believe I am doing this, I must be crazy.” You could hear her screaming from the moment she left the plane. When she landed she jumped up and down shouting I did it, I did it!

 Wednesday morning was a majestic puffy cloud, blue-sky day

Juan Velasquez said, “I’m really scared, but want to do this for my brother.”

The whole Weiss family Andrew, AJ and mom Julianne attended the Gold Star workshop. AJ said, that “he looked up after exiting the plane and never in his life did he think he would see his mom and skydive  above her!”

Julianne a teeny petite, bright blue-eyed mom said, I am ready to touch the sky in an interview prior to her jump. She glided through the brilliant blue clouds and stood up with a soft tiptoe landing. All of a sudden she was springing up and down all over the field all the way to her Gold Star Family support team, and Andrew said, “she’s my little energizer bunny!”

Following the Gold Star Family jumps,  COI’s from Chicago ,Indianapolis, Great Lakes, Minneapolis and Milwaukee Recruiting Battalions were anxiously awaiting for their name to be called from the manifest.

Dr. Randall Allen, (SFC Retired), USA Olympic Archery Coach and Judge, Tech Prep. Coordinator for Bay College said that it was one of the most awesome experiences of his life. Following his jump he handed out a RAK (random act of kindness) card, and arrows as a memento from his Army Strong Experience.

Honorable Ben Hodgin, Mayor of Hartford City said his experience was fantastic. When Ben was given his tandem certificate he said, “This was not just Army Strong, This was Army Cool!”

Mark Warner Executive Dean for Education at the Mayo Clinic is no stranger to the Army Experience and said that he thoroughly enjoyed his jump and was grateful for the opportunity. His son is a pilot with the Air Forces’ Thunderbirds, His brother is a Jag Officer stationed at Fort Bragg, NC, the home of the Golden Knights.

 

 

 

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