It was a chilly Monday morning at the 2014 World Parachuting Championships in the Czech Republic. The 8-Way Formation Skydiving Team has completed their eighth and final practice jump out of the L-410 Turbolet aircraft. The L-410 is extremely different than the UV-18 Twin Otter aircraft that the Golden Knights primarily train from. The turbojet door is narrower and taller than the Golden Knights Twin Otter’s door. It’s also harder for us to maintain our grips on one another in the door and the exits don’t come off as clean as exits from the Otter. But after several practice jumps we feel confident enough moving forward. Tonight is the opening ceremonies and the draw. The official competition starts first thing Tuesday morning. The weather forecast is not looking very promising for the next couple of days. They are calling for a high chance of rain but all the teams are staying optimistic and hoping for favorable weather conditions.
In June of 1942 over 24,000 allied troops gathered at grassy fields in England to perform a task that has become a common sight at FT Bragg, NC. The men gathered their equipment, donned their parachutes, and took off into the night sky. Hours later, more than 160,000 troops stormed the Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword Beaches that spanned 50 miles of Normandy coastline.
June 6th, 2014 marked the 70th anniversary of the prolific invasion that launched American Forces into Occupied France. At Bedford, VA over 6,000 veterans, family members and supporters gathered at the National D-Day Memorial to commemorate the historic event. Laid out over a sprawling amphitheater, the memorial showcased a reenactment of the landing cast in stone and iron, complete with a beachhead made with sand from Normandy.
On Friday, members of the Golden Knights 8-Way competition section were honored to perform an airdrop over the monument in front of the courageous men who filled it’s seats. At exactly 11:30 AM SFC Kurt Isenbarger gave the ‘standby’ signal and seven paratroopers exited our UV-18 Twin Otter to pay homage to the men and women who paved the road to Berlin. Shortly after the jump, SFC Sean Sweeney and SFC Josh Coleman presented two mahogany batons, which were flown in with the jumpers to 1LT John Kessler; the guest of honor at Friday’s memorial.
The legacy of men like 1LT Kessler and the countless veterans that made the ultimate sacrifice on the shores of Normandy are the reason why all Soldiers hold themselves to such impeccable standards. The actions of allied troops across both European and Pacific Theaters established a measure of toughness, devotion to duty, and honor that stands as a model for the men and women of today’s Armed Forces that will surely carry into the future.
SFC Drew Star
Representing the USA, members of the Golden Knights 8-Way Formation Skydiving Team (GK8) have earned the right to be called “World Champions” by winning Gold at the 2012 World Parachuting Championships in Dubai, U.A.E. In addition, GK8 set a new World Record for most points scored in competition- 229, beating the old record of 224 set in 1997.
Winning the Gold was no easy task, as the French National Team arrived in Dubai determined to defend their reigning World Championship. France showed this determination in Round 1, beating GK8 by 1 point to start off the competition. After a tie in Round 2, GK8 decided to turn up the intensity, and it paid off. GK8 had a near perfect performance in Round 3, while France suffered from a minor mistake, resulting in 5 point swing in favor of the Knights. GK8 entered Round 4 knowing very well that a 4 point lead was not enough to become conservative against the reigning World Champions. With another high intensity jump, the Knights picked up 3 more points on the French. The 7 point lead did not last long as France fired back in rounds 5 & 6, cutting the Knights lead back down to 4 points. GK8 was determined to remain on the offensive, but also limit costly mistakes for the final four rounds. The strategy proved successful, as the two top teams went on to tie in each of the remaining four rounds. GK8 landed from Round 10 fairly confident that they had held onto their lead, and the competition pressure that had mounted over 8 days finally started to lift. Members of the Golden Knights 8-Way Team broke out in celebration immediately after the judges confirmed their victory. Four years of intense training and determination had paid off!
“It’s been an honor to represent the U.S. Army and the United States of America on this World Stage. I believe we demonstrated that, when properly trained, American Soldiers will prevail.” –SFC Mike LaRoche
This was the first World Meet for the Golden Knight Female 4-Way team. In preparation, this two-year team completed 800 training jumps and multiple hours of tunnel time. This year kicked off with the Shamrock Showdown in Deland, FL. There, GKF4 finished with a 17.2 average. The competition at the World Meet was mostly familiar. Of the 14 female teams, GKF4 had faced 7 of them at one time or another. These teams were Canada, Brazil, Russia, Norway, UK, UAE and France. GKF4 led the competition for the first 7 rounds. In Round 8, France pulled ahead by one point. In the end, GKF4 won Silver with a 20.1 average.
The Competition Team will now enjoy some time off with family for the Holidays. The Knights plan to train hard next year to defend their titles and continue the tradition of excellence that has been established. Army Strong!