No longer grounded, Golden Knights share Army spirit in Fayettev - - Columbia, South Carolina |

No longer grounded, Golden Knights share Army spirit in Fayetteville & beyond

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A member of the Golden Knights faces the exit doors before a jump demonstration in Fayetteville on Saturday. A member of the Golden Knights faces the exit doors before a jump demonstration in Fayetteville on Saturday.

The U.S. Army Parachute Team participated in a ceremony in Fayetteville on Saturday, not far from the team’s headquarters at Fort Bragg.

The Golden Knights, as the team is commonly called, performed a freefall parachute demonstration and landed in front of the Airborne and Special Operation Museum where there was a celebration of National Airborne Day.

"Here we are today, jumping into National Airborne Day, going back to the roots of what the 82nd Airborne Division is,” commented Golden Knight Staff Sgt. David Flynn. “It's a lot of fun."

Flynn said it is nice to have the Golden Knights back to their normal activities. They travel about 275 days a year to perform at air shows or do jumps and all sorts of different events. Last year though, Flynn had to wait through automatic federal spending cuts, which ground the Golden Knights.

"Last year we were under the sequester,” Flynn said. “This year we're fortunate enough to travel again, so it's been a lot of fun."

Along with that fun, the team members truly believe in their mission of being the face of the army. For Staff Sgt. Shelby Bixler, this is her first year as a demonstration jumper with the team.

"We get to share our own individual Army stories at air shows, jumping into NFL football games, college football games, baseball games,” Bixler said. “So that's ultimately what's great about this job."

Thousands of feet in the air above Fayetteville, a select few of the team surveyed the wind conditions, tossing out streamers before the jump. Eventually, after enough observation and coordination with the pilots to get the plane in just the right spot, Bixler jumped out for a first-hand test.

She reported conditions back to the plane. The other Golden Knights used that information to help them make any necessary adjustments or plans for their own jumps. Soon they all jumped from the plane – first one half, then the other on a second pass – each one disappearing from the plane’s doorway in the blink of an eye.

On Saturday a few jumpers from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command also jumped. There red and black parachutes added a punch to the normal golden yellow and black of the Golden Knights.

Once they reached the ground the show may have been over, but that was just part of the job. For the crowd, the Golden Knights then became face-to-face representatives of the Army.

“We land right in front of them and then they can come talk to us at the Army recruiting booths,” Bixler said. “We sign autographs and we give fist pumps and repack our parachutes (as we talk to spectators.”

Flynn said he knows the Golden Knights make a positive impression on the general public. He said that interaction with the public is a major element of his role as a Golden Knight.

“A lot of times that's the children's first time ever seeing or talking to a soldier,” Flynn said.

The Golden Knights began in 1959 as the Strategic Army Command Parachute Team, or STRAC. In 1961, the Department of Defense announced that the STRAC team would become the United States Army Parachute Team. By 1962, the team earned the nickname the “Golden Knights."

Copyright 2014 WNCN. All rights reserved.

Brandon Herring

Brandon is a North Carolina native and UNC alum who lives in Fayetteville, and covers Cumberland County and the Sandhills. Returning to North Carolina to work as a journalist is a dream come true for Brandon.

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