03/23/06 — Parachute team will join show lineup

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Parachute team will join show lineup

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on March 23, 2006 1:45 PM

Specialist Ryan Ray remembers the first time he jumped out of an airplane -- watching the tailgate come down, stepping on its edge, becoming one with the sky.

Now, every jump is a new mission.

Heads up -- Seymour Johnson Air Force Base will give spectators a new reason to keep their eyes on the sky at this year's Wings Over Wayne event Oct. 15, as it hosts the United States Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights.

Golden Knights parachute team

Submitted photo

Members of the Golden Knights parachute team perform. The team has been confirmed for this year's Wings Over Wayne show in October.

Ray, one of the team members who will travel to Goldsboro to perform this fall, said each jump is an honor -- a dedication to fellow soldiers serving the U.S. overseas and here at home. And he can't wait to show crowds on the ground exactly what it takes to be a Golden Knight.

"It's a great experience, a wonderful adventure," he said. "And it's an honor to be representing the men and women deployed around the world."

Founded in 1959 as the Strategic Army Corps Sport Parachute Team, the Golden Knights are broken up into two teams. Each year, the black and gold teams demonstrate in front of a combined 12 million people at air shows and sporting events nationwide.

"It's great to be on the team and to represent my predecessors and the Army," Ray said. "It really is a great, great job."

But Ray said he might not have ever been in the Army had he not decided to skydive with a buddy years ago. It was love at first jump.

"I remember the tailgate of the airplane coming down and stepping off the back end," he said. "It was an incredible feeling. As soon as I reached the ground, I was ready to get back up there and do it again. And the rest is history."

Any enlisted soldier can apply for the team, which is selected at Fort Bragg, the team's home base. To be selected, members must meet a number of criteria. Requirements include being a volunteer, having completed at least 150 free-fall parachute jumps and possessing a flawless military and civilian record.

Team members say their work is a reflection of the Golden Knights creed -- the one they live by. An excerpt of it reads, "The goal I pursue is simple, yet bears a responsibility I must discharge without reservation; when I have gained the respect, admiration and gratitude of the American Public and my teammates, then I have fulfilled my mission as a Golden Knight."

Ray said each jump is thrilling, but not all fun and games. Instead, a jump represents duty, honor and professionalism.

"I think jumping is a great sense of adventure," he said. "But the way that I look at it is each jump is a mission, and we complete the mission, just like every soldier does."

And like any soldier's duties, jumping can be nerve-wracking at times, he said.

"Sometimes you do get a little nervous, but you trust in your equipment and you trust in the soldiers that are around you," Ray said.

Despite the nerves, he and his teammates wouldn't trade their jobs for anything.

"I'm really looking forward to getting out on the road and meeting people," Ray said.

The Golden Knights will be one of many acts scheduled to perform at this fall's Wings Over Wayne. Others include the Seymour Johnson F-15E Strike Eagle demonstration team and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.