Golden Knights decorate sky at air show
July 24, 2012
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. (July 24, 2012) -- They are knights who wear flight suits instead of armor; Airborne Soldiers who jump into crowds instead of combat zones; whose mission is for entertainment -- not war.
They are the U.S. Army's parachute team the "Golden Knights" and their exhilarating lifestyle grants them thousands of free-fall jumps in locations all over the world where they perform for huge crowds of cheering fans in hopes of inspiring the enlistment of future Soldiers.
"Free-falling is absolutely the greatest feeling in the world," said Staff Sgt. Brian Karst, a demonstration parachutist for the Gold Team of the Golden Knights. "I get excited every single time I look out of the plane at the target below. There is no greater feeling than knowing that I'm about to land in front of all those people and all eyes are on me."
The Golden Knights Gold Team, one of their demonstration teams, performed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., where they jumped for the 2012 JBLM Air Expo at McChord Field, July 21-22.
"I love being in the sky, (it) is like home for me," said Sgt. Trey Martin, who is also a demonstration parachutist on the Gold Team. "I love jumping out of planes, especially for the Army. The American public is just awesome."
The Knights are no strangers to jumping out of planes, as they are required to have at least 100 free-fall jumps prior to even trying out for the team.
"It was six minutes of awesomeness. It was indescribable," said Karst, a Vancouver, Wash., native, about his first jump. "There was so much freedom up there. I couldn't think of anything else I wanted to do after that."
Their performances often include a variety of aerial formations, vibrant displays of smoke, sparks, proud Army parachutes and flags. They most often land at an air show or sporting event.
"You can't hear anything or see anything but the target," said Karst about his feelings after jumping. "It's so humbling because you have such a small area to land in and you have to really concentrate and your heart is pounding."
The demonstrators are split-up into two teams, black and gold. A total of 26 demonstration positions are available to anyone with enough jumps, a clean record and enough heart and skydiving skill to make the cut.
"Our tryout program is very intense. You go through two months of training in the middle of the North Carolina heat," said Martin who is from Houston, Texas, and has been on the team for almost a year. "You do about 200 hundred free-fall jumps and a lot of physical exercise. They want to see who wants to be there. You got to love it if you want to be here."
Being a Golden Knight requires a great amount of teamwork as many of their preparations and aerial formations rely heavily on cooperation said Karst.
"We all have one mission, which is to spread the Army word and through that we all have that common bond and that common goal. That's what sort of brings us together," said Karst.
Their events often conclude with a meet-and-greet with the crowd and by packing their parachutes with children or other spectators.
"We are ambassadors to the people," said Karst. "We travel around and talk about all the opportunities available in the Army and how great of a job you can have."
They travel for about 250 days a year and can complete up to 4,000 free-fall jumps during their four years with the team.
"Anybody who wants to do this should just go for it. Don't let fear hold you back," said Karst. "I've circled the globe and nothing can compare to the excitement of this job."