A Day with Black Team

Video shot and edited by SGT Rachel Medley

Snow at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, TX

SFC Will Fleming lands right on the fifty-yard line, as the remaining jumpers turn on final approach...note the SNOW on the hills! Brrrr!! (photo by SGT Rachel Medley)

The Sun Bowl did NOT live up to its name this year in El Paso, TX. In fact, the weather for today’s big game could have earned it a new name…perhaps the “Wind Snow Unbelievably Cold Bowl,” and not may would have disagreed with that name! Upon the team’s arrival yesterday, the winds were 35 gusting to 50 at the airport, with ice and snow flurries in the forecast.

BUT, for Black Team, the miserably cold conditions just upped the ante and made them more determined than ever to put on a great show for the sold out crowd.

The pilots arrived at the plane early to assess the frosty conditions, since the day dawned with a dusting of snow on the ground. The plane got a de-icing bath and then it was “off to the races,” as Will (SFC Will Fleming, BT Team Leader) would say. The winds had calmed down since yesterday and were steady at 6 to 10mph at the stadium.

SGT Dan Cook meets the Notre Dame mascot on the sidelines (photo by SGT Rachel Medley)

It was a bumpy ride and chilly (this year’s biggest understatement) under canopy, but the winds were perfect for tiptoe landings…and every single jumper landed softly right in the middle of the field. Everyone’s fingers were frozen practically stiff, so the warm press box and yummy food were a welcome sight.

Country singer Lee Greenwood performed at the half-time show, then came to the press box and met the team. The team uses Mr. Greenwood’s song “God Bless The USA” when they jump in the POW/MIA flag at shows. The jumpers enjoyed the game, during which Miami took a brutal beating from Notre Dame, and Black Team closed out the season on a high note.

In debrief, SFC Will Fleming (after having a bucket of ice dumped on his head) said that he wouldn’t trade his “kids” for anything and made a toast to an even better year in 2011.

Black Team and Team Six pose for a picture with country singer Lee Greenwood, who performed at the half-time show (photo by Laura Wagner)

It’s Not Good Training Unless it’s Zero Degrees!

Black Team flies an eight-way formation over the Golden Knight's training drop zone in Laurinburg, NC Friday morning at 0630 hrs (photo by SGT Rachel Medley)

There’s an old adage in the Army: “If it ain’t rainin’, we ain’t trainin’!” Most take this to mean that the more painful the weather, the better the training…but Black Team would have gladly taken rain this morning. Instead, they awoke to temperatures in the high 20s and began training at 0400 hrs (4am for you non-military folks) in…ahem…brisk NC fall morning weather.

The stars shone bright and the moon was a silver sliver as the jumpers dirt-dove the first formation. Under the cover of darkness, it was hard to see the thick layer of hard frost on the ground, but it was there to be sure, in the headlights of the drop zone van.

Black Team flies over Laurinburg, NC Friday morning at 0630 hours (photo by SGT Rachel Medley)

As the C-31 took off at 0515, anyone who wasn’t awake quickly became so, as the cold air blasted in through the rear doors of the aircraft. The climb to altitude was quick. The jumpers leaped into the zero degree, 160mph wind at 12,500 feet and completed the first of four formation jumps.

The second jump was expertly timed to as to have the winter sunrise as the backdrop of the formation.

Everyone was chilled to the bone, but in good spirits despite the absurdly early morning and nearly unbearably cold high altitude temperatures. Black Team Leader SFC Will Fleming summed it up lightheartedly during the final debrief. “I know it’s cold,” he said, “and yeah, this was my idea. But it was great training, and you all can call me all the names you want over Christmas break…but I’ll still see you in January for training!” Everyone had a good laugh and then headed to breakfast as a team to get some pancakes and warm up.

SSG Trevor Oppenborn (right) and SSG Howie Sanborn fly a side-by-side canopy formation over Laurinburg, NC Friday morning (photo by SGT Rachel Medley)

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