COLUMBUS, Ohio (Army News Service, Jan. 30, 2009) -- Since the Army is always looking for new and different ways to get its recruiting message across, Columbus Recruiting Battalion leaders decided the sky was the limit as they partnered with the international, award-winning skydivers of Team Fastrax.

Formed in 2002, Team Fastrax was created to promote the sport of skydiving in a positive way. Each member of the team is drug-free and lives the vision of promoting the sport as professional athletes -- as role models and ambassadors of the skydiving community. But more than that, most of them are prior service and are walking testimonials for what the Army can do for a person.

This group of skydivers perform all over the United States at professional football and baseball games, NCAA Division I football games, NASCAR, IHRL, major air shows, and symphony events. They also have the distinction of being the first-ever civilian skydiving team to jump with the Army's Golden Knights parachute team in a world championship. As a result of this partnership, a Team USA 8-Way, known as KnightTrax, was used at the 2008 World Championships, culminating with a Silver Medal.

The team has more combined experience than any team in the World. Their skydivers train on average 500 jumps per year, not including the demonstrations themselves. In fact, a person must have a minimum of 1,100 jumps before even considered for a try-out for Team Fastrax. To date, team members have a combined 300,000 jumps.

But how did such a unique partnership come about' A few years ago, two of the battalion's recruiters, Staff Sgt. Bill Rice and Sgt. Timothy Castle of the Columbus North Station, had the idea to "sponsor" several Ohio State University students with a skydiving jump being held by Team Fastrax.

As they arrived with the students at the jump site, John Hart, owner of Team Fastrax, discussed with them how the team could help support the Army's recruiting effort. Ultimately, that conversation led to the first "game ball and U.S. Flag" jump at the Hilliard Davidson vs. Hilliard Darby football game at Crew Stadium.

In addition to this first high school jump, a large group of school administrators came to the tandem jump site and received the thrill of a lifetime as they experienced skydiving. About 12 jumped that day and this led to an invitation for Team Fastrax to speak at the school.

During a general assembly, Hart's brother, David, provided a motivational speech that centered on the school administrator's skydiving experience and his personal experience as a U.S. Army Ranger.

"We were told by one of the recruiters that the skydiving activity had significantly improved his relationship with the school principal and athletic director," Hart said.

For the kids, the skydivers might as well be Rock Stars. They "high five" the kids and sign autographs.

"The parents love it that we take the time to talk with their kids and pose for photos," Hart said. "The crowd interaction is our favorite part of the skydiving performance. We are known for jumping large American flags at our events, and as we approach the landing area, the crowds go crazy chanting USA, USA, USA."

For the recruiting command, their jumps will often bring in leads. One such case was when they made nine jumps during the Ohio Challenge in Middletown, Ohio. Those jumps, made in front of more than 100,000 people, generated more than 50 leads.

Besides the Recruiting Command and the Golden Knights, Team Fastrax also has an ongoing relationship with.the 101st Airborne demo team, known as the Screaming Eagles. Members of the Eagles train at Team Fastrax's training site and jump with them. In particular, Team Fastrax taught members of the Screaming Eagles how to perform jumps that include trailing flags and pyrotechnics.

And how is the Team Fastrax and USAREC partnership going'

"I believe this is a great partnership that more USAREC battalions should take advantage of," Hart said. "We open doors to schools that have been closed in the past to the Recruiting Command. Since we own our aircraft, our flexibility to make demonstrations happen on a short notice is something no other team can provide. We have ordered additional Army Strong banners and parachutes to accommodate the needs of USAREC demonstrations."

He continued, "We have heard more than one recruiter comment on how our efforts have helped them get engaged with Future Soldiers and open doors at the schools. Think about it, members of our jump team are CEOs and presidents of corporations.

"We don't tell the students what the Army is going to do for them while in the service; we tell them how serving in the United States Army will give them the skill sets to succeed in life beyond their enlistment."

(D. Charone Monday writes for the Columbus Recruiting Battalion.)

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16