Golden Knights Parachute Team Jumps for Joy of Crowd
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., May 7, 2006 Hitting the mark as they always do, members of the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team jumped into the middle of the 2006 McDonald's Air and Sea Show here yesterday.
Preparations for a jump into the 2006 McDonald's Air and Sea Show at Fort Lauderdale Beach continue as the Army's Golden Knights parachute team waits to reach the jump zone. Sgt. 1st Class Paul Sach, left, the Black Demonstration Team leader, prepares the streamers that will help determine wind direction. Cpl. Joshua Coleman, center, puts his gloves on while Sgt. Hector Ceja, talks with a teammate seated across from him. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"This is our way of saying thanks to the American public," Sgt. Hector Ceja said.
That thanks was being rehearsed for the umpteenth time at the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport nearly two hours ahead of the jump. While still on terra firma, members of the Black Demonstration Team went through their routine from the jump to their introductions after landing. Then they were off in their C-31 Troopship emblazoned with the Golden Knights name and logo.
Streamers released at 6,000 feet helped determine wind direction. Being a little upwind is good, Spc. Ben Borger said.
"You want to sort of use the wind to your advantage to get back to the target," he said. With a year on the team, Borger has 450 freefall parachute jumps. He jumps out of a perfectly good airplane because it's exciting, he said.
"You see a different view of the Earth not many get to see," he explained. Some of those views occurred at sunset over North Shore, Hawaii, when he was stationed there. Those, he said, are his favorite jumps.
Ceja disagreed with his teammate. He would argue he's not jumping out of a "perfectly good plane."
In fact, he said, parachutes wouldn't have been made if planes were perfectly good. "I jump out of this airplane because I know I'll be safe," he said. "It's the ultimate feeling of freedom. You're in touch with the elements."
The one thing both jumpers agree on is that no two jumps are alike. There are different formations the team performs and as Ceja said, "the scenery changes."
No matter what the scenery is, it looks miniature from 12,500 feet above the Earth, where it's 40 to 45 degrees colder than on the ground. Yet that was the altitude from which the team members began to let themselves be pulled free of the plane.
"Flying through the air never gets boring," Ceja said. That's good, because they're doing the whole thing over again today before getting ready for a show in Fort Worth, Texas.