By Staff Sgt. Lerone SimmonsMarch 14, 2018
FORT CAMPBELL, KY -- The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) invited prominent city officials and key leaders from Kentucky and Tennessee to participate in a tandem jump with the U.S. Army's Golden Knights Parachute Team at Clarksville Regional Airport's Outlaw Field, March 2-3.
Hosted by the U.S. Army Marketing and Engagement Brigade, in conjunction with U.S. Army Recruiting Command, the skydiving event is one of several showcased annually across the nation as part of the Total Army Recruitment Effort.
The Golden Knights, who serve as Army ambassadors, jump to increase Army awareness to the American public while bolstering relationships within the communities.
"This event is an excellent opportunity to showcase some of the unique capabilities of our Army, but in a manner that most people don't get to experience," said Maj. Gen. Andrew Poppas, 101st Abn. Div. (AASLT) commander. "The people who jumped today are catalysts in the community who bring others together to support the 101st mission. A day like today reinforces why the 101st and this community are the marvel and envy of the entire military."
Cheered on by Screaming Eagle Soldiers and leaders, including Poppas, several business leaders and community members took part in the event, including Jeffrey Davidson, Rutherford County, Tennessee deputy mayor; Missy Eckenburg, Rotary Club District 6710 governor; Charles Hand, Hand Family Companies chairman of the board; Joe Padula, a Clarksville radio personality and members of The Veterans Trust, a veteran-led, diverse team of business owners.
After receiving a safety brief and training, the jumpers were fitted for suits before entering the aircraft. They then attached to a Golden Knights tandem team member to partake in the adrenaline-charged experience of parachuting from more than 13,000 feet above the ground.
"You can see by the expressions of everyone who's jumped; the anxiety when they go up, but then the exhilaration as they descend and land," said Poppas.
First-time jumper, Land Deleot, a member of the Patriot Foundation who provides support to family members of wounded and fallen service members, hit his mark during the tandem jump and said that events like this help foster current relationships while building new ones among Soldiers and community members.
"It was the most fun experience I've ever had in my life," he said. "One of our missions [Patriot Foundation] is to connect the local community with Fort Campbell and help educate them on the sacrifices that these Soldiers and their families are making. Fort Campbell creates a great economic impact on our region, and events like this continue to create lasting bonds."
While most of the excitement can come from new skydivers, Sgt. 1st. Class Jimmy Hackett, a tandem instructor with the Golden Knights shares in some of that excitement as well.
"Whether a celebrity or a car salesman, you never know who you're going to interact with on a tandem," said Hackett. "That is what makes this fun for me."
Hackett went on to say that while most Golden Knight performances incorporate an Army recruiting element, the involvement of the 101st Abn. Div. (AASLT) and Fort Campbell was unique.
"It's very rare that we get active units in the military to put something on like this," he said. "Most of the time, it's put on by the recruiting elements, so I think it's very good for a division like the 101st to do something like this to help reach out to their community partners."
Events like this are part of a larger Army initiative to foster effective community partnerships. They offer insight into day-to-day operations, and are supported by policies and regulations that govern the requisition, approval, conduct, and evaluation of Centers of Influences, like those here.