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Blue Skies JT

 

The Golden Knights proudly and humbly memorialize Jonathan Tagle with the letters JT flown in free fall above Laurinburg NC. Home of the Golden Knights. The initials he was famously known for. He was more than just a skydiver. JT was an inspiration to all of those that put on a parachute. He was a professional canopy pilot, a pioneer and an ambassador for a country in a discipline that has no margin of error. One which is not for the feint of heart. Flying parachutes at speeds nearing 90 miles per hour inches from objects and from the ground. His smile was infectious and his attitude was glorious. In an individual sport he was one of my biggest adversaries. With his small stature, but his larger than life personality which was only matched by his incredible talent. I have been teammates with him several times as we represented the United States in international competition. He pushed me to want to be a better pilot. His mere presence made everyone perform to the best of their abilities, because if they didn’t he was unbeatable. He was, several times over a National Champion and a World Champion. We were competitors together we were competitors against one another, we were team mates but most of all we were friends. With a heavy heart and my deepest condolences to his family, his friends and fellow teammates on the Performance Designs Factory Team, I say good bye to a true friend.

Blue Skies JT

(written with deepest simpathy and warmest regards by Greg Windmiller)

 

Golden Knights 23rd Change of Command

Fort Bragg, NC—The U.S. Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights’ jumped into the Team Headquarters facility on 3-3327 Butner Road on Tuesday, 26 June 2012, at 10:30 am for the Change of Command Ceremony. LTC Joe Martin relinquished command of the United States Army Parachute Team, “Golden Knights” to LTC Jose Enrique Melendez. LTC Melendez is the twenty-fourth Commander of the parachute team during its fifty-third year of existence.

(Ret) SFC Darrin Grim gave a warm blessing opening the day’s event, followed by SSG Daniel Cook who did a phenomenal narration for the ceremony.

The 82nd Army Band played the National Anthem under a brilliant blue sky as SGT John Lopez jumped in the American Flag and landed in the lot in front of the cheering crowd.  Five additional jumpers came in flying the Army Star, Team Colors and POW Flag demonstrating their exceptional skills of maneuvering a parachute, which is displayed at air shows in front of hundreds of thousands of people across the country weekly.

Members of the United States Army Parachute Team stood in a formation of a Black and Gold sea, behind CSM Royce Manis as the American Flag, Army Flag and POW Flag majestically flew high over head in front of the Team Headquarters.

Team CSM Manis passed the team colors to LTC Martin who passed the colors to Colonel Mark Rado, Commander of the United States Army Accessions Support Brigade who passed the colors to LTC Jose Melendez and back to CSM Manis.

LTC Martin gave a heartfelt speech thanking all of his previous commanders and SGM’s for mentoring him over the years. He credited them for where he is today in the Army. He mentioned the loss of one of our fellow alumni Dan Williams who passed this week and Icon Spider Wrenn, who was not here for one reason. He is in intensive care in the hospital.

LTC Martin’s wife Alison, daughter Kathleen and mother Carol, were presented red roses on behalf of the team and his son Trevor was presented a team coin.

LTC Melendez thanked all of the family, team and alumni for attending the event and said that he was proud and honored to be taking command of such an Elite unit and promised to give his full support to the team in the upcoming years. Melendez said,” All policies will stay in effect,” he saluted and joined his family for the closing.

LTC Melendez’s wife Rosimar and daughter Lyanne were both presented yellow roses welcoming them to the team.

The 82nd Army Band played the traditional Army Strong, Ballad of the Green Beret (which brought about a few teary eyes) and Army Song, melodies for an audience of about 200.Numerous General Officers, Officials, families, Alumni and friends attended the historical ceremony.

Former Commander and Alumni’s MAJ. Jim Correll, LTC Bruce Wicks, LTC Kirk Knight, Gold Team Leader SFC Ben Curn, SFC, Ken Kassens, OPS O MAJ Sean McKenna and CPT Jeff Cambre, SFC Michael Elliott, SFC Will Fleming, George and Lucy Torrealba and Alumni Honorary GK Regina Hudson were a few of the former team mates who returned for the ceremony, which made a welcome reunion.

LTC Martin his wife Alison, daughter Kathleen and son Trevor along side of his parents Jim and Carol Martin (who have been great team supporters) greeted well wishers in the team museum.

LTC Jose Melendez, wife Rosimar and daughter Lyanne Marie hosted an exquisite luncheon and greeted both of their parents father and mother Enrique and Felicita Melendez, who traveled from Florida, and father and mother-in-law Angel and Carmen Rosario and son Angel from Puerto Rico and hundreds of guest in the Spider Wrenn Dayroom to begin the new era with celebration.

It couldn’t have been a better day, beautiful skies, light winds, dead center landings, a cheerful crowd and family reunion. The only thing missing is my mentor and Golden Knight, who 1st claimed the 50 year traditional saying at an air show decades ago, “ May your days be prosperous and your “Knights” Golden”, our own beloved Bobby “Spider” Wrenn. Get well soon, you’re in all our prayers.

GK Canopy Team brings home medals and a World Record

Over the last two weeks the Golden Knights Canopy Piloting team were in the midst of an epic battle.  The team started out at the final FLCPA meet of the season on June 9th.  The last meet brought the top canopy pilots in the country to the competition.  Everyone was trying to get in one last meet before US Nationals. The final meet also turned out to be one of the longest days of the FLCPA’s history.  The competitors started out with a 0700 safety briefing followed by the mandatory practice round.  A light tail wind helped the jumpers through speed course and led to some blistering fast times.  After the two rounds of speed were complete the light tail wind turned into a strong and turbulent wind putting the competition on hold for over five hours.  As late afternoon hit the winds started to die down slightly.  At 1730 the Caravans cranked up and jumping resumed.  The only question was how many of the four rounds would be able to be completed before the sun would set.  The judges, competitors and staff moved as quickly as possible changing the course, packing their parachutes and flying the aircraft and with two minutes before official sunset the last jumper landed to complete the competition.  The judges sorted out the results and late Saturday night, 15 1/2 hours after the safety brief the awards ceremony commenced.  SFC Greg WIndmiller had an amazing meet and finished 1st in Zone Accuracy, 3rd in speed and 2nd place overall for the meet.  After announcing the winners of the meet, FLCPA director Albert Berchtold announced the overall standings of the league.  Again it was SFC Windmiller standing on the podium.  After four meets that saw between 30-60 competitors he took home the 3rd place trophy.   SFC Joe Abeln competing as a PRO for the first year finished in 9th place overall, 5th out of the Pros. 

 Just five days after the end of the FLCPA, US Nationals of Canopy Piloting started out just the way the last meet did.  A light tail wind seemed to be the trend for the winds in North West GA.  This year 41 Open competitors battled it out for a chance to make the top 8 and represent the US at the World Meet in Dubai later this year.  An additional 15 advanced class competitors made up the meet.   The competition started early on Thursday with a 0700 wheels up time. This year the meet director chose to run two rounds of each event on the first day of competition, then finish the last round of each on the 2nd day.  The tail wind proved very challenging for the first event, Zone Accuracy.  Competitors must drag their foot through four water gates then stop their parachute and stand up in a scoring zone.  In the distance event the jumpers must drag through an entry gate then stay under a 1.5 meter high course for 50 meters.  Once the jumper passes the exit gate they try to fly as far as the can with the first point of contact with the ground marking their score.  The final event of the first day was Speed.  The speed course has the competitors flying for 220 ft below a 1.5 meter course marker and carving 70 degrees.  With two aircraft flying the first six rounds of the meet were finished fairly quickly and after the judges posted the days scores the competitors were released for the day.  Friday morning started out yet again with a tail wind and competitors took advantage of the winds in the speed and distance rounds.  SFC Windmiller set a new World, National and State record with an amazing time of 2.404 seconds.  The speed event this year was the tightest competition ever with the top three being separated by less than 6/10th   of a point after three rounds.  SFC WIndmiller took the Silver medal in speed.  The distance event also saw a new world record as Nicholas Batsch flew over 150 meters.  This years competition was the closest one folks can remember with the lead changing nearly every round.  No one was certain who would stand on top until all nine rounds were in the books. In the end Curt Bartholomew stood on top the podium as National Champion.  Close behind Curt was his Alter Ego Teammate Nicholas Batsch.  SFC Windmiller as selected to be the US Team Manager for World Meet in Dubai.    Performance Designs Factory Team member Tommy Dellibac took home the bronze.  USPA, the judging staff and Skydive the Farm did an amazing job running the 2012 USPA National Championship of Canopy Piloting. 

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