The Golden Knights Parachute Team: the U.S. Army Parachute Team has promoted esprit de corps throughout the armed forces and supported the Army's recruiting goals for nearly 50 years.
IN 1959, 13 men who were to comprise the Strategic Army Corps Sport Parachute Team reported for duty at Fort Bragg, N.C. Over the next two years the team performed so well that the Army officially activated it as the U.S. Army Parachute Team--the Defense Department's aerial-demonstration team--in 1961.
The "Golden Knights," as they're known today, are so called because of their many victories during the years in which the then-Soviet Union dominated the international sport of skydiving.
For nearly 50 years the men and women of the U.S. Army Parachute Team--like the knights of old--have promoted esprit de corps throughout the U.S. armed forces and have supported the Army's recruiting goals through public demonstrations, USAPT officials said.
The team supports U.S. Army Accessions Command by performing parachute demonstrations in front of millions of Americans; conducting tandem jumps as part of the Army's outreach program; and competing and winning in national and international parachuting competitions.
The team's 103 men and women are divided among seven sections: two demonstration teams, a tandem team, two competition teams, an aviation section and a headquarters section. Additionally, each team has a dedicated free-fall photographer who wears a specially designed helmet rigged with video and still cameras to record the action for publicity and training purposes.
The demonstration teams travel to air shows and sporting events throughout the country, performing for an estimated 14 million spectators annually. They fly the U.S. flag as they dive toward predetermined spots on the earth, performing various precision aerial maneuvers on the way down.
The tandem team, which consists of eight Soldiers, has afforded national news-media representatives, a former U.S. president, actors and sports personalities the opportunity to jump.
These tandem opportunities provide positive exposure for the Army through the news media, and further acquaint prospective recruits with opportunities in the Army, while demonstrating the positive aspects of teamwork, discipline and professionalism, USAPT officials said.
The two competition units--the Style and Accuracy Team and the Freefall Formation Team--represent the Army in parachuting competitions worldwide.
Transporting the jump teams to and from air shows, events and competitions is the job of the aviation section, known as Team Six. The team includes civilians and Soldiers who ensure the jump teams arrive safely at their destinations. Team Six includes four aircraft and some of the Army's best aviators.
Each year the USAPT travels to Yuma, Ariz., for an extensive eight-week winter training program to perfect its parachuting skills and prepare new team members for the upcoming show season.
The men and women who wear the distinctive black and gold uniform of the USAPT represent all U.S. Soldiers and the best precision free-fall team in the world.
Becoming a Golden Knight
Soldiers who want to become Golden Knights must first apply to attend the annual Assessment and Selection Program.
Selection is held once a year at Fort Bragg, N.C. Active-duty enlisted members from any of the services may apply.
Applicants must have a minimum of 150 free-fall parachute jumps, flawless military and civilian records, and be willing to attend the U.S. Army Airborne School.
Cheryl Rivas is a media relations officer for the U.S. Army Parachute Team.