In 1959, the Strategic Army Command Parachute Team, or STRAC, was formed by nineteen Airborne Soldiers from various military units. Brigadier General Joseph Stilwell Jr. gathered the Soldiers with the intent of competing in what was then the new and Soviet dominated sport of skydiving. That year, the all U.S. Army team began representing the United States on the international competition circuit, as well as performing their first demonstration in Danville, Virginia. In 1961, the Department of Defense announced that the STRAC team would become the United States Army Parachute Team.
By 1962, the team earned the nickname the “Golden Knights” on the competition field of battle. Golden, signifying the gold medals the team had won; Knights, proving that they were world champions and alluding to the fact that the Team had “conquered the skies.” The Golden Knights continue to show audiences around the world why they are the world’s best parachute team and are one of only three DoD sanctioned aerial demonstration teams, along with the US Navy Blue Angels and the US Air Force Thunderbirds.
The Team’s mission today as part of the U.S. Army Marketing and Research Group is to support the U.S. Army’s recruiting and public relations efforts. To accomplish this, the Golden Knights conduct parachute demonstrations, tandems and compete nationally and internationally in order to create a greater propensity to serve in the Army by helping connect America’s people with America’s Army. On order, the Team provides direct support to special mission and special operations units with military free fall training.
Over the last 53 years, the United States Army Parachute Team has created hundreds of millions of positive impressions for the Army by conducting over 16,000 shows in 50 states and 48 countries, reaching an average of 60,000 people per show, averaging over 30 million impressions annually. The Team conducts over 850 tandems each year and has jumped with distinguished centers of influence from Former President George H.W. Bush to Bill Murray and Chuck Norris. The Team domination of national and international competitions has already earned the U.S. Army an impressive 2,148 Gold; 1,117 Silver; and 693 Bronze Medals, as well as, having broken 348 world records. In order to support this, our Aviation Detachment flies over 1,870 hours and conducts over 2,900 sorties annually.
The United States Army Parachute Team consists of only 89 Soldiers and civilians divided into several sections: Black & Gold Demonstration Teams; Tandem Team; Competition Team (8-Way, 4-Way and Canopy Piloting); Aviation Detachment and Headquarters Detachment. Golden Knights take pride serving as the face of the Army to the American public while representing over 1.1 million Soldiers in the total Army. Thirty three Golden Knights have died in the line of duty while serving our country; eight of them in combat and one Golden Knight is still missing in action. In order to ensure we maintain relevance and credibility with both the American public and our fellow Warriors, Golden Knights are always Soldiers first; over 93% of this Team currently has combat experience.
Want to learn more, visit the Golden Knights Alumni Association