By LaShonda WalkerJune 12, 2007
DALLAS, Texas (Army News Service, June 12, 2007) - It was the surprise and challenge of a lifetime rolled-up into one big package for several women training to be members of one of the nation's premiere cheerleading squads.
Thirteen Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders were surprised after their Monday night rehearsal to discover they were being challenged with the opportunity to do a tandem jump with the U.S. Army Golden Knights June 4.
After hours of practice the girls thought the night was over, but their athletic trainer, Jay Johnson, a retired Army master sergeant, had a final mental drill to run the ladies through.
"The U.S. Army and the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders demonstrate many of the same core values," said Mr. Johnson. "You have to have integrity, loyalty, honor, pride and be willing to work together as team."
After pumping up the team with one of his traditional Army drill sergeant motivational speeches, he introduced them to several of his friends - the Golden Knights.
As the Knights walked into the rehearsal hall, the team was still uncertain about what was going on. Then Sgt. 1st Class Billy Vansolen, the tandem team leader, explained. "Ladies you are being challenged to go to an altitude of 13,500 feet, jump out of an airplane and experience 60 seconds of freefall."
There was a slight gasp that went across the room as they all began looking at each other and then to their coach Kelli Finglass.
"At first I was in shock, and wasn't sure if I wanted to do it," said Nicole Hamilton, a DCC veteran squad veteran. "But, I'm ready to go. I'm going to jump out of that plane."
Early the next morning the team boarded the Dallas Cowboys blue-and-white bus and headed to the Alliance Airport in Fort Worth.
One-by-one, 13 of "America's Sweethearts," showed their strength by taking the plunge out of a plane.
"Nothing can touch jumping with the Knights," said Candi Harris, a two-year team veteran. "This is truly an elite team of Soldiers and it was such an honor to be selected for this opportunity."
The surprise was part of the Country Music Television's filming of the team's reality television series, "Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Making the Team," which is scheduled to premiere this fall.
(LaShonda Walker writes for the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion Dallas.)