By Twana Atkinson.
As the Army continues to reinforce their vision for 2028 to fill the force; the U.S. Army Parachute Team is also making ambitious efforts to maintain their formations as one of three Department of Defense sanctioned demonstration teams.
The USAPT, also known as the Golden Knights, conduct worldwide parachute demonstrations, competitions and tandems to connect the Army with the American public. They also enhance the Army’s recruiting efforts; while simultaneously providing technical expertise in support of military free-fall programs.
Recently, the Golden Knights implemented a “Green Platoon” initiative to recruit local Fort Bragg Soldiers that aspire to become Golden Knights, but lack skydiving experience. “The basic purpose of the ‘Green Platoon program’ is to strengthen the United States Army’s Parachute Team by ensuring that we get the right people for the team,” said Staff Sgt. Blake Gaynor, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the USAPT Preparation Program.
Currently, the Golden Knights hold an assessment and selection program once a year. But according to Gaynor, only half of the candidates make it through the program. “We get about four to eight candidates a year that make it….and it’s a constant struggle to maintain competency and people while Soldiers ETS or retire out of the organization,” said Gaynor.
The Golden Knights operate on an elite level while conducting at least 10 tandem camps, and performing at more than 40 shows a year throughout the United States. “Myself and Sgt. Skylar Romberg are former Golden Knight Assessment and Selection cadre; so we know what it will take to become a Golden Knight,” said Gaynor. The preparation platoon will better prepare interested Soldiers not only in skydiving but also in being a good ambassador for the Army. The experience that they will get from the program will give them a better chance in making it through the assessment and selection.
“As cadre, I’ve seen a lot of candidates come through and not make it because of their skydiving experience or their inability to conduct public speaking,” said Gaynor “Sometimes they have the skydiving experience but lack maturity or stress management skills. We travel all over the world and perform at very high profile events in small teams; so each individual has to remain very proficient in all of their tasks.”
Interested Soldiers will conduct more than 300 free-fall parachute jumps, receive public speaking coaching, develop stress management skills and receive U.S. Parachuting Association licenses. Sgt. 1st Class William Comancho from the 27th Eng. Bn., an interested candidate, used his lunchtime to come and get information on the upcoming program. “I would love to travel all over the world representing the Army doing something that I love,” said Comancho.
The Golden Knights held several information briefings for interested Soldiers in their headquarters building for a week. As the Army continues to fortify their mission of building a more modern, lethal force, the Golden Knights are duty-bound to help the United States Recruiting Command to achieve that. Soldiers local to the Fort Bragg area have until Feb. 17 to submit their packets to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story by Twana Atkinson was originally published on February 15, 2022 by the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service. DVIDS content is in the public domain.
Photo of Golden Knights jumpmaster by Sgt. Brian Collett, U.S. Army, February 3, 2021.