As the 2014 U.S. Skydiving National Championships come to a close, the Golden Knights will be returning to Fort Bragg, N.C. with a few more medals to add to their trophy case. The Golden Knights won Bronze in 4-way open and Gold in 4-way female, 8-way open, 10-way speed, 16-way, and 4-way VFS advanced. The total medal count for this year’s Championships was 58, with 52 being gold, and 6 being bronze. The 8-way team had a stellar performance in which they set a new 8-Way World Record by scoring the most points ever in a single competition with 237 points. This topped the previous record of 229 points which the Golden Knights also held. They also remain the reigning Overall Formation Skydiving Champions for the fourth year in a row. It was a bitter sweet victory though as the 8-way team says goodbye to SFC Mike LaRoche. SFC LaRoche finishes his competitive career on the Golden Knights as an 18-time National Champion, 2-time World Champion, and a World Cup Champion. He will be leaving the Golden Knight family after being accepted to the Army’s Physician Assistant Program. SFC LaRoche leaves us on a high note, he has gained the respect, admiration, and gratitude of the American public and his teammates.
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