WADSWORTH – The U.S. Army Golden Knights Tandem Team will take to the skies from Wadsworth Municipal Airport this weekend, giving local leaders an opportunity to taste the sky during tandem skydives — weather permitting.
The stipulation is important considering what happened Thursday.
After one successful skydiving flight early in the morning, high winds kept the Golden Knight’s Twin Otter aircraft on the tarmac the rest of the day.
Maj. Mark Snowbarger, Golden Knights operations manager, said the team will take skydivers on tandem jumps today and Saturday. Sunday will serve as a makeup day, if needed.
A tandem jump is when a novice skydiver is physically attached to an experienced jumper for a jump.
“They will exit from 13,000 feet and they will get just under a minute of freefall and then we will usually pull (the parachutes) right around 5,000 feet,” Snowbarger said Thursday.
“They will be up there for another two-and-a-half or three minutes just flying around, just doing circles.”
Community leaders, educators, coaches and business owners are selected by Army recruiters as community partners, and those individuals are invited to make the jump.
“Whoever they feel helps the Army make their mission of bringing in tomorrow’s soldier,” Snowbarger said.
Due to the wind, would-be jumpers instead passed the time at the airport, sitting at picnic tables and chatting inside a small building next to the runway.
Betsy Pertner, a school counselor at South Central High School in Greenwich, said the opportunity to jump with the Golden Knights was simply too good to pass up.
“To me, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to be able to jump with the Army Golden Knights team that are world renowned,” she said.
Snowbarger said the Golden Knights tandem team is made up of nine skydivers, two pilots, a media relations professional, and a packer to keep the parachutes at the ready.
While those jumping have already received information from U.S. Army recruiters, Snowbarger said they provide their guests with their own experience of Army life.
“We are like a second opinion if you will, of what has the Army done for us,” he said.
The Golden Knights, which will celebrate its 60th anniversary this year, also includes demonstration and competition teams. The organization is headquartered at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Snowbarger said a demonstration team will be on-hand during the Cleveland National Air Show in September.
Huron High School government and economics teacher Heather Merckens said she was excited for her turn in the hot seat.
“I have not been skydiving before,” she said. “I was in the Air National Guard for six years.”
Merckens said she was the only person from her high school to agree to do the jump.
The U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team is open to enlisted soldiers, and requires at least 100 civilian skydives before a candidate can even try-out for the team. An eight-week selection course must also be completed, Snowbarger said.
“These guys are well into the thousands,” he said of the number of jumps completed by team members.
Jumps are scheduled to resume today shortly after 9 a.m., weather permitting. Members of the public are welcome to come out to the airport, 840 Airport Drive, Wadsworth, to watch the jumps and meet members of the Golden Knights team.