Digging deep into competition history you’ll find that Russia is the “Mother” of competitive parachuting. As early as 1930, jumpers in Russia were competing to see who could land their parachutes closest to a target- known today as Classic Accuracy. The first sanctioned World Parachuting Championships took place in Yugoslavia in 1951, USA was not present. It wasn’t until the 1956 World Parachuting Championships that the USA would field a team.
The US Army Parachute Team “Golden Knights” began in 1959 as the Strategic Army Corps (STRAC) Sport Parachute Team. At that time they focused on one thing- beating the Soviets who dominated the sport of competitive skydiving. As you can imagine, in the Cold War Era, it wasn’t just about winning Gold Medals. With the Space Race also underway, parachuting carried even more weight as astronauts and scientists considered possible alternatives for re-entry to earth.
The 50+ year history of parachuting competition between USA and Russia will continue in March at the Shamrock Showdown as the Russian 8-Way team will travel to Florida to once again go head-to-head with the Golden Knights. Since the Golden Knights re-formed the 8-Way team (GK8) in 2009, they have competed against the Russians in 3 different competitions. One could argue that the competition between USA and Russia is more “friendly” these days, as members of both teams feel ample respect for each other. Nevertheless, Competitors from both sides will give 100% as they gear up to represent their respective Nations in a Competition which carries the weight of history.
2011 World Cup- USA 1st, Russia 3rd
SSG Josh Coleman stows reserve lines as SPC Jesse Stahler observes.
The Golden Knights’ Competition Team had a great 2011 season, and is now preparing for 2012. First things first- parachute maintenance. The Competition Team has 34 parachute systems that must be serviced and maintained throughout the year. The majority of work falls on the shoulders of the 5 certified Parachute Riggers within the Competition Team.
Reserve parachutes must be opened, inspected, and repacked every 180 days. The Riggers are extremely meticulous when packing these life-saving devices, taking well over an hour to complete one reserve parachute. In comparison, a main parachute is repacked in under 10 minutes. As Golden Knights, we literally trust our lives in the hands of our Teammates, and we have total confidence in them.
SFC Kurt Isenbarger attaches a new line to the canopy.
On an average year, Competitors make between 500-800 jumps, and the parachute lines do wear as you would expect. As such, Competitors must replace line sets every 400 jumps. This is no easy task, as every line must be attached to a specific place on the parachute to provide the proper trim for glide angle and performance. In preparation for the 2012 season, the majority of the 34 parachute systems will receive a new line set as well as a fresh reserve pack. With all of the parachute maintenance complete, the Golden Knights’ Competition Team will be fully mission ready for the 2012 Competition Season, where they will represent the USA at the 2012 World Parachuting Championships in Dubai.
SSG Justin Blewitt and SFC Kurt Isenbarger focus while attaching new lines.
SPC Jesse Stahler packs a reserve under the supervision of SSG Josh Coleman.
The US Army Golden Knights Competition Team nearly swept all four Formation Skydiving events at the 2011 US Nationals, thereby earning the title of Combined Overall Champions for the first time in over a decade. (more…)