By Ms. Ally Rogers (IMCOM)November 4, 2010
FORT KNOX, Ky. -- Some people may believe that jumping out of a "perfectly good airplane" is crazy. But the Army's Golden Knights do it nearly every day, and last week the tandem team came to do it at Fort Knox.
What made this tandem camp different from others was that for the first time the participants were mostly Army recruiters.
According to Knox's 3rd Recruiting Brigade Commander, Col. Michael Hauser, who spearheaded bringing the Knights to post, the reason behind the camp was to give recruiters a first hand "total Army experience" that will aid in explaining the diversity of opportunities within the Army.
"These demonstrations and tandem jumps bridge the gap between Recruiting Command and the centers of influence," said Sgt. Maj. Stephen Young of the Knights. "Basically, we are connecting America to America's Army. We are the ambassadors that go out and show this side of the military."
The three-day camp began Oct. 26. Ten Golden Knights, including the sergeant major, commander Lt. Col. Joe Martin, and two pilots, were on hand to provide the "total Army experience" to nearly 30 centers of influence, which are individuals who are essential and influential in helping recruiting efforts.
Among the participants was Mitch Barhart, the athletic director of the University of Kentucky. He explained that this "once in a lifetime" opportunity was a unique time to spend time with the military and become more familiar with the opportunities provided in the Army.
"These guys are the best of the best," he said, explaining that he wasn't nervous but more excited to be educated by the Knights.
The day one event had to be cancelled due to high winds. However, the participants, provided they were able to stay, were rescheduled to jump the following day. On Oct. 27 the weather was perfect for skydiving.
The Knights performed nearly seven jumps each, providing more than 18 people with a tandem experience.
Each person went through the pre-jump class, where they learned that they would be jumping out of a UV18 Twin Otter aircraft, while attached by four points to their expert, sailing 2.5 miles above the Earth with a speed of 120 miles per hour for a 35 second free fall. Once the parachute was deployed the jumpers sailed for a few minutes until landing safely on the ground.
In the class the students watched a video and short demonstration, both of which explained what to do when jumping. They were told that after being attached, with helmet, goggles, and gloves on, the jumpers would stand at the door with their toes off the edge. From there they would be required to place his or her head back on the shoulder of the expert, maintaining a straight back and squatting. On the count of three they would exit the plane. Once in the air they needed to arch their back, and extend their legs between the legs of the expert, with heels arched toward the expert's rear-end.
"There are three things to remember. One, relax, kind of like doing yoga," explained Sgt. 1st Class Mike Elliott, the tandem team leader, prior to the jump. "Two, arch your back, it is uber, uber important for stability. Three, have fun. Oh, and make sure you breathe-80 percent of tandem jumpers land and say they couldn't breathe. It's because they were holding their breath. So breathe, it is very important."
The harness has 12 points of adjustments. While free-falling, the straps were fastened tightly around each jumper. Once the parachute was deployed the straps were loosened so that the remainder of the ride was comfortable. From there the jumpers sailed to a safe, soft landing on Brooks Field.
After landing from his jump, Sgt. Demetrius Rucker explained that he never wanted to skydive.
"I always said it would be ludicrous to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. Only when it lands would I jump out of it," he said. "But I was chosen for it. And I was going to deny it, but it's a once in a lifetime experience so I had to take it.
"This was an awesome experience. It was probably the best experience I've had in my entire life. I have been nervous since (accepting the offer)," he said. "When the door came up, that's when it hit me. But once we got to the door and they pushed me, it (was) on.
"Then when you're outside the plane it's like, 'Oh my God.' It was surreal."
By the end of their visit each Knight had added approximately 10 tandem jumps to their resumes. And while each Knight explained that they love their jobs, they will always be "Soldiers first," and that's why spreading the word about the Army and the various opportunities available is important and significant.
"All of our jumpers have different MOSs -there isn't a cookie-cutter type of Soldier," said Young. "They have all deployed at various points in their careers, and they tell their Army story, which allows the public to realize that it's a different kind of Army.
"We perform these jumps all over the U.S. It just depends where the need is. And (it helps to) change the attitudes about the military."
Hauser added, "We decided that because the home of Army recruiting and accessions command is at Fort Knox, we wanted to bring this opportunity to the community to help integrate the Army a little more and do more things locally. Our 3rd Brigade area is 614,000 square miles and touches 13 states, so we like to bring things home in the local area."