Folks back home in North Carolina endured some heavy weather this past week and the Team Room was brimming with talk of icy roads and wintery conditions. The poor jumping conditions spanned up and down the coast as low ceilings and gusty winds shortened training opportunities on Wednesday and Thursday here at Homestead. Try as hard as we might, Team Six climbed high into the air every day this week in effort to get as close to Sky Six as possible to hear our cries to chase away the clouds and rebuke the winds, but nay, not a word from the heavens above and more blustery weather in the forecast. Perhaps next week will deliver more accommodating conditions for us to continue to capitalize on the tremendous training momentum built over these past six weeks. “
On January 23rd in brilliant blue skies over Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fox News Journalist and Reporter, Lea Gabrielle climbed to unventured heights in the sky with The U.S. Army Parachute Team, Golden Knights.
Lea arrived at 7:00 am and was greeted by the Commander of the Golden Knights, Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Weinrich, Tandem Team Leader Sergeant First Class Joe Jones, and the Women’s Champion 4-Way Formation Team (GKF4), Sergeants First Class Angela Nichols, Dannielle Woosley, Jennifer Davidson, and Laura Dickmeyer.
Lea completed her training, signed the necessary paper work and donned an Army black and gold jumpsuit. This accomplished Female Veteran Navy Pilot was well on the way to her once in a life time opportunity, placing her life in the hands of a very skilled professional Soldier.
Team pilots, Mr. Kenneth Breeden and Mr. Allen Aber, taxied the Viking Twin Otter to an elevation of 13,500 feet as the nervous reporter said to the Fox photographer, “This is the type of office I am so accustom to where I am flying, not jumping out of, a perfectly good airplane in to the thin air!”
Moments later the team videographers climbed out onto the struts of the aircraft and began filming the thrilling event. Lea and SFC Jones stepped into the door. She gave quick thumbs up and a patriotic salute. In a split second the pair went dove into the blue abyss of the morning sky and the magic had begun.
The GKF4 women’s competition team flew down to Lea and grasped her hands forming a perfect circle in the air. The videographers skillfully flew around the formation capturing her elated expressions.
Soon Lea found herself under a gigantic Army canopy sailing left and right spiraling round and round. SFC Jones then turned into the wind for a beautiful soft landing.
LTC Weinrich said, “The U.S. Army Parachute Team ‘Golden Knights’ enjoy the opportunity to conduct tandem parachute jumps with centers of influence around the country. While we treat all tandem passengers equally, the extent and effect of outreach news personalities and celebrities such as Ms. Lea Gabrielle have help inform the American public about the incredibly talented professionals we have across the Army Team. By including the Golden Knights’ Women’s 4-Way Formation Team into Lea’s jump, we demonstrated how the Golden Knights are, like the Army, a Team of Teams, which offer young men and women many opportunities. Because the Army generally operates in a joint environment with the other services, it was an honor working with Lea, a Navy Veteran, who understands the discipline, sacrifice, and professionalism required to serve in the military.”
On December 16th, 2014, in a modest ceremony at Battalion Headquarters, Chief Warrant Officer Five Jeffrey Sopp was appointed as the first Warrant Officer in Golden Knight history to command the Team’s Aviation Detachment. Hailing from Pennsylvania and serving in the Air Force before joining the Army in 1990, Mr. Sopp could not have possibly envisioned all those years ago, that he would one day lead our team of highly skilled Aviators and Ground Crew in its mission to support the World-Class United States Army Parachute Team.
Perhaps our readers may doubt the Unit’s decision to place a Warrant Officer in charge, but those skeptics have obviously not met Jeffrey Sopp. Always the consummate quiet professional, he has already begun skillfully guiding Team Six through eleven solid weeks of intense and demanding training at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida in preparation for our most action-packed show season to date. Upon returning to Pope Army Airfield in March, both C31A Friendship Fokkers and all three deHavilland Twin Otter 400s will traverse the United States coast to coast in support of the Army’s recruiting mission.
Our Aviators and Ground Crew will journey together with our Jumpers as we build to achieve Golden Knight 2025 at the forefront of the sport of skydiving. Few could lead this charge other than Mr. Sopp. Join us in congratulating Mr. Sopp on this supreme career achievement and be ready to see Team Six thrive in the coming months as our parachuting experts continue to bring home their gold medals.