HOMESTEAD, Fla. — For Master Sgt. Jennifer Davidson, joining the Golden Knights wasn’t a question; it was a no-brainer.
As the parachute team of the U.S. Army, the Golden Knights have a prestigious reputation and a history of excellence. Stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, active-duty Soldiers from many backgrounds and career paths serve on three teams: the demonstration team, the tandem team and the competition team.
Davidson, an active guard reserve (AGR) Soldier in the U.S. Army Reserve, is currently serving with the demonstration team and has been jumping out of planes since 2004.
While a junior in high school, the Portsmouth, Iowa, native enlisted in the Army Reserve as part of the delayed entry program.
Davidson says she had always wanted to join the Army and that being in the Army Reserve allowed her to take advantage of the split option and get a head start on her career.
Davidson says she learned to jump on her own at the age of 20 after her original summer plans fell through.
She began her journey by first participating in three tandem jumps. Her experience during those jumps motivated her to attend the accelerated freefall course in 2007.
“I absolutely loved skydiving,” said Davidson. “As a new skydiver, I had only been jumping for about a year and a half (half of which was deployed) before accumulating about 300 jumps”
To apply for the team, qualified Airborne Soldiers must have a minimum of 100 military or civilian free-fall jumps.
Davidson attended the Golden Knights assessment and selection in September 2008. The team conducts the process every year to pick new members. Winter training occurs in Homestead, Florida, and new recruits are trained on everything they will be doing to ensure they're fully qualified and capable.
“I went into the AGR program when I joined the team,” said Davidson. “Once I made it, there was some interest in keeping me in the Reserve component so there could be some representation on the team. The leadership at that time was very supportive, and they were able to create the AGR position for me.”
Davidson has logged over 8,000 jumps and several hundred hours of tunnel time. She also has become proficient in belly flying and free-falling while competing in 4 Way, 8 Way, and Vertical Formation Skydiving.
The Golden Knights, according to Davidson, are the Army's ambassadors to the American people. In her experience, many people have never met a member of the military and being able to speak with an actual Soldier can be extremely beneficial to them.
After 13 years on the team, Davidson is ready to move on to her next challenge in life by attending the U.S. Army’s aviation school.
“I've spent a lot of time at airshows with the Golden Knights, and I've always been intrigued with what helicopters are capable of,” said Davidson. “I obtained my private pilot's license (for fixed wing aircraft) a few years ago, and it was a great experience.”
She is excited about the challenge and plans to continue competing and demonstrating in a civilian capacity.
On her 11 years of experience as a member of the Golden Knights competition squad, Davidson says it is a close-knit unit that travels frequently and conducts 800 jumps a year on average.
“When you become part of the team, you become part of a family,” said Davidson. “I’ll miss my teammates for sure.”