Written by Sgt. John Miller
U.S. Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights
Clarksville, TN – The day starts the same as all tandem camps with the Tandem Master in this case Sergeant First Class Jimmy Hackett giving a brief on tandem operations to a class full of people who are prepared to voluntarily get thrown out of a perfectly good airplane. During this class the students for the day learn how to effectively be an exemplary tandem passenger learning the proper way to exit and land a tandem jump.
During the camp many local dignitaries were given the opportunity of a lifetime and conduct a tandem jump with the Golden Knights. Several members of the “Veterans Trust”, a strategic grant-making foundation, were on hand to jump including Lee Hediger the founder and Fred Roger the executive director.
Joe Padula a local radio host out of Clarksville, TN describes the experience as, “quicker than you initially think and once that adrenaline rushes in you’re just like WOO! and you turn into Ric Flair”.
History was made during the camp as a mother, father, and daughter combination was able to jump on the same day.
This is a first time this has happened in the Golden Knights 59 years of existence. Missy Eckenburg, a Kentucky Rotary District Governor, made the jump with her husband Stan, and daughter Erin Hendley.
Colonel Joseph Kuchan the garrison commander for Fort Campbell even got into the mix jumping at 13,500 ft. with his tandem instructor. COL Kuchan exited the airplane 13 times higher than he was used to from his many static line jumps. After the jump COL Kuchan was ready to go again and very thankful describing his experience in one word, “awesome”.
Serving under the leadership of the Army Marketing and Research Group and Marketing Engagement Brigade (MED) as the “Official Ambassadors of the Army,” the USAPT annually reaches a third of our nation by per¬forming spectacular live parachute demonstrations for the American public, manifesting the “Band of Excellence” as displayed by all U.S. Army Soldiers around the world.
The U.S. Army Mission Support Battalion Mobile Exhibit Company (MSB), another subordinate unit of the MEB was also attending the tandem camp. The MSB showed their support with one of their Army Experience trailers which houses a fully interactive army experience inside.
This is the nineteenth year of The USAPT’s Tandem Orientation Program. (TOP) It has been a stellar achievement helping bridge the gap between the public and the sport of parachuting, while improving the team image. The USAPT Tandem Team travels all across the country during the show season hosting camps from the east coast to the west coast.
One thing is for sure on March 2nd and 3rd the lives of the men and woman who jumped from a plane 2.5 miles in the air will never be the same. The USAPT looks forward to returning to Clarksville, TN in April for another successful tandem camp.