U.S. Army Parachute Team

The United States Army Parachute Team Golden Knights
Media Release 2017
BY Donna Dixon
For over fifty-eight years members of the U. S. Army Parachute Team have been marking the milestones of achievement and an evolution of excellence serving as “Ambassadors” of the Army’s only official Demonstration team. The Golden Knights portray the image of being the most formidable parachuting competitors and demonstrators in the world today.
If you mention the name “Golden Knights” to someone today in any of the fifty states, and most likely what comes to mind is a phenomenal demonstration they watched in past years at an air show or sporting event. But if you mention it to a sport parachutist, they will most probably think of the competitors they jumped against or heard about in parachute meets across the country or abroad.
The Strategic Army Command Parachute Team, or STRAC, was formed in 1959 by nineteen “Airborne” Soldiers from various military units. Brigadier General Joseph Stilwell Jr. was responsible for gathering these Soldiers with the original intent to compete during the Cold War effort. This new U.S. All-Army team swept the international competition circuit, in what was then the Soviet dominated sport of skydiving. Later that year, on November 1st, this newly formed team performed their first demonstration in Danville, Virginia.
In 1961, the Department of Defense announced on June 15th, that the STRAC team would become the United States Army Parachute Team. The team is one of three authorized DoD aerial demonstration teams, along with the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels.
Sergeants First Class Tom Melton and Brian Karst fly the Biplane canopy formation to the target.
In 1961 the team had a meeting to select a team nick name and they chose “the Golden Knights.” On October 15, 1962 the team confirmed the nickname the “Golden Knights” on the competition field of battle. Golden, signifying the gold medals the team had won; Knights, proving that they were world champions and the fact that the Team had “conquered the skies.”
As the Army Ambassador; the USAPT conducts worldwide parachute demonstrations, competitions and a tandem orientation program to connect the
U.S. Army with the American public and enhance the Army’s recruiting efforts, while simultaneously providing technical expertise in support of military free fall programs.
Missions of today’s Army are still the same as 239 years ago when the Army was established to Prevent, Shape and Win against our advesaries.
By request, the team will test and evaluate new parachuting equipment and techniques that assist in improving operations and safety for the military free fall teams.
The Team has increased its support of the operational force for military freefall Soldiers with personalized coaching and assistance in maintaining and improving military freefall infiltration skills and techniques, while preparing for deployment and rotating teams in support of the Special Operations Headquarters.
SSG James Hackett flys our Nation’s colors to the target.
SGT Blake Gaynor of the Gold Demonstration tracks away at breakoff altitude over winter training in Homestead ARB, FL.
Serving under the leadership of the Army Marketing and Research Group and Accessions Support Brigade as the “Official Ambassadors of the Army,” the Team annually reaches a third of our nation by performing spectacular live parachute demonstrations for the American public, manifesting the “Band of Excellence” as displayed by all U.S. Army Soldiers around the world. The single main ingredient contributing to the success of the Army Parachute Team is without doubt “teamwork.”
The Golden Knights have performed more than 17,000 shows in all 50 states and 48 countries, reaching more than 20,000 people per show. Through demonstrations and  public speaking with the Army’s target audience,
at air shows, schools, sporting events and hospitals the team is able to direct potential applicants to the on-site Army Recruiters.
The eighty-two men and women who make up the Golden Knights are separated into nine sections -The Black and Gold demonstration teams, a tandem team, four competition teams, an aviation detachment and the headquarters section.
The Headquarters mission enables the demonstrators and competitors to concentrate on putting on phenomenal shows and bringing home the gold. Headquarters elements control the logistics and personal support for the team. These duties include Operations that handles show scheduling, military schools, waivers; Admin takes care of the Soldiers personnel records, evaluations, leave and travel orders; Finance deals with budget issues to assure the mission is completed; Supply provides all
uniforms, equipment contracts and maintenance; Riggers provide parachute maintenance, repair, reserve parachute repacks and inspections; and Media Relations/Public Affairs handles all local and National Media, Office of Chief of Public Affairs, Media coordination, Graphic Illustra- tions, photography, lithoes, video shooting, edit-
ing and production.
Millions of people throughout the world see the Golden Knights each year, at over 70 demonstration sites across the nation and abroad. These Army Ambassadors perform precision free fall demonstrations to connect the US Army with people in towns who rarely, if ever, see a Soldier.
These men and women, who perform with the Black and Gold demonstration teams, help to tell their Army story to all they meet, and to increase the propensity to join the all volunteer force. Preparation for the demonstration itself begins hours prior to the performance. Team six prepares the aircraft for takeoff, smoke is rigged, flags packed, weather checked and media briefs are given to the media riders by the designated safety demonstrator. The C-31A Friendship Fokker takes off 30-40 minutes prior to time on target. The flight pattern is established, black and gold wind drift indicators are dropped and they climb to altitude.
Staff Sergeant Chris Clark displays an “Accuracy Approach” with the Pyrotechnic chain alight.
The demonstration teams perform two different shows from an altitude of 12,500 feet. The mass show entails one jumper exiting the aircraft and flying our national colors. This Soldier will then narrate the show for the audience, while the rest of the team exits the aircraft maneuvering together to form one large mass formation.
The full show consists of four separate maneuvers, which demonstrate the maneuverability of the human body while falling at speeds in excess of 120mph, which can be altered due to weather or other concerns, once again displaying amazing talent and flexibility of the team.
The first maneuver, the baton pass, entails two jumpers exiting the aircraft separately and flying together to exchange a 14 inch mahogany baton. The cutaway maneuver is designed to show what would occur if the jumper’s parachute was to malfunction. The diamond track demonstrates the incredible amount of lateral movement a jumper can obtain in free fall. The final maneuver of the full show is the diamond formation. Four jumpers exit the aircraft and constantly maneuver their bodies closer together until they are mere inches apart, forming a diamond shape in the sky.
Several members of the Golden Knights are trained as free-fall photographers. Wearing specially designed helmets rigged with both digital video and still cameras, they skillfully fly their bodies around various team formations, documenting the events for publicity and training purposes.
Professional wrestler, Gayle Kim, is delivered via Tandem by
SFC Joe Jones.
SFC Chris Acevedo deploys the Tandem main parachute  at 5,000 ft.
This show season forges on celebrating the seventeenth year of The Army’s Tandem Orientation Program. (TOP’s) Army Strong Experience, has been an astronomical success helping people understand the training and professionalism of our Soldiers while enhancing the team image by bringing the American public closer to the sport of parachuting and the opportunity to get to know actual Soldiers in the United States Army.
The Tandem Team consists of Soldiers selected from a core of highly qualified parachutists from within the unit. The Tandem Team provides the unique experience
of tandem parachuting Soldiers and Centers of Influence who have never jumped before that can help share the Army’s message. These COI’s put their lives directly in the hands of our Soldiers who demonstrate the positive aspects of teamwork, courage, discipline, professionalism and excellence resident within the operational force.
Tandem opportunities result in a positive Army image through the news media and to the American public.
the great capability, ‘first hand’ and reiterates to our young citizens the many opportunities available to them. Those who have jumped with the tandem team include: the 41st President of the United States George
Herbert Walker Bush, Geraldo Rivera, Chuck Norris, Bill Murray, the cast members of the TV show “The Unit,” Dennis Haysbert and Robert Patrick and New Orleans Saints, quarterback Drew Brees to name a few.
Members of the Men and Womens’ Competition Team display an advanced double Free fall flag formation.
The Golden Knights competition teams have continually been given the highest accolades in parachuting competitions, respect not based on only their reputation, but also on a continuing record of accomplishments.
The Free fall formation skydiving consist of a specified number of jumpers linking together to form geometrical formations with in a set time limit. These competition teams consist of an eight-way team and a ladies four way team.
The team has a three-man Canopy Pilot Team, SFC Greg Windmiller, SFC Joe Abeln and SFC Jared Zell, which display the latest discipline by swooping across a pond from point A to B attempting to set a record speed and distance run.
This year we have introduced the very latest freefall discipline,Vertical Formation Skydiving (VFS) to the team genre.  To date, competition teams have managed to
Over the past 58 years, the United States Army Parachute Team has broken 350 World Records, to include military records held in the Counseil International du Sports Militaire (CISM).
The Golden Knights 8-Way Competition Team are the current World Champions and have been bestowed the honor as National Champions for four consecutive years.  The 8-Way and ladies 4-Way Teams will represent the United States at World Cup Competition in the Netherlands, Korea for CISM and the World Games in Dubai, UAE this year.
This past years alone, the competition teams have earned 70 medals, of which 60 were gold. These achievements have made them not only the most successful DoD sports team, but also the most successful parachute team in the world.
The Golden Knights Competition Team participates in several categories; accuracy, free- fall formation, canopy piloting, canopy relative work, free flying and vertical relative work. Not only are the Golden Knights superb competitors, they are true sportsmen.
Members of the VFS, Vertical Formation Skydiving Team, train over Homestead, ARB Florida.
virtually win the most of the top honors in sport parachuting events in which they have participated. The competition teams sport an impressive record of 490 national champions, 130 world champions, 50 national and ten world team titles.
The Aviation Section, known as “Team Six,” is the backbone of the parachute team. The Aviators consist of both Soldiers and civilian former Golden
Knight pilots who ensure all teams arrive safely to their destinations and enable the jumpers to use the aircraft as a jump platform, for demonstrations, tandems and competitions.
The Aviation Detachment have flown more than 113,050 hours under the most demanding weather and air show air traffic conditions. The pilots and crew members accomplish the team mission using a fleet
of five aircraft: two Fokker C-31A “Troopships” (also called the “Friendship”) and three DHC-6-400 Twin Otters, otherwise known within the Army as the UV-18, Viking Twin Otters.
The aviation detachment and headquarters section work endlessly in support of the demonstration, tan- dem and competition teams. They ensure the numerous missions of the Golden Knights are accomplished with ease.
The men and women who wear the distinctive black and gold uniform of the United States Army Parachute Team represent the “Band of Excellence” and the “Warrior Ethos” that are continually demonstrated by all U.S. Army Soldiers World-wide and represent the greatest free-fall team in the world. Traveling across the nation and around the world, serving as Ambassadors of the U.S. Army, the Golden Knights are demonstrating not just precision parachuting, but all the skills in the Army from Airborne Ranger to X-Ray Technician.
These professional Soldiers proudly serve the country with pride, skill and enthusiasm.
The Army has more than 150 job specialties for active duty Soldiers For more information about the many opportunities available in today’s Army visit www.goarmy.com.
For information about the Golden Knights, including media support, individual team member biographies, pictures, show schedules, and more go to