Golden Knights take flight for Salute to Veterans parade
COLUMBIA - The U.S. Army's Gold Demonstration Parachute Team jumped, from almost a mile high, onto Broadway for the Salute to Veterans parade Monday.
Early Monday morning, the parachute team met at Columbia Regional Airport to prepare the plane for the parade jump.
Staff Sergeant Trey Martin is on the team and said the jump is very special to him.
"We get to jump in air shows and see kids faces when we land, and get to meet the public," Martin said. "It's awesome."
The Golden Knights travel the globe and perform at different air shows and events. Martin said the team represents the United States Army and the men and women overseas.
"We all come from different jobs throughout the army and we come together as a team," Martin said. "We go through a selection process to be able to come to the team to be able to represent the United States Army and to travel and meet the public that doesn't really know what the Army does. So all of us as individuals get to tell our Army story, where we came from, why we joined, the benefits of the Army and how it changed our lives.
But joining the Gold Knights isn't as easy as signing up.
"It's very, very challenging," Martin said. "We hold a selection process once a year. We usually get about anywhere from 10 to 15 applicants across the United States Army. They usually have a little bit of free fall experience before they come. We require them to have about 100 jumps. They come to our selection process. It's about two months long, and they'll jump about eight to 10 times a day. And I will assess them on their people skills, how well they perform , and how fast they learn."
Martin said to get selected to be on the team, an applicant has to do their best.
"Do what they Army asks of you and you'll be just fine," Martin said.
And the Army asks the team to do more than just parachute.
"We do do demonstration parachuting, that's our job," Martin said. "But I would say that's only about five percent of our job."
The other 95 percent of the team's job is to meet and interact with the public.
"We do way more of that, than actual jumping," Martin said. "Jumping only lasts about 50 seconds and the rest is interacting with the crowd and the American public. We go to VA hospitals, we go to schools, we do all different types of certain events to draw more people in and let them know what the Army's doing."
Monday's jump was the Golden Knight's second jump at the Salute to Veterans parade. Martin said the jump onto Broadway is one of the most challenging jumps the team performs.
The Golden Knights were prepared to jump at the Salute to Veterans Air Show Sunday, but bad weather forced a cancellation.
"There's the light poles, the buildings, and we're spreading our jumpers all the way throughout the intersection," Martin said. "Today it's a little bit windy, so it's going to be a little bit challenging and we've got low clouds right now."
Although the jump might challenge the team, Martin said he hopes they get to come back next year.
"We love it here," Martin said.
(Below are photos of the group and their view of downtown just before the jump.)
(The photo below shows a Golden Knight nearing the ground. Image is courtesy of Ursuline Thomas via Facebook.)
(The photo below shows a Golden Knight about to high-five the daughter of Cory Branson, who submitted the image to our Facebook page.)