The Department of Defense’s only sanctioned military parachute demonstration team, the U.S. Army Golden Knights, are scheduled to co-headline Travis’ upcoming Air Expo and Open House on May 3 and 4.
Currently conducting winter training at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., the Golden Knights are executing six to 10 free falls per day, five days a week in preparation for a season schedule that includes approximately 40 performances.
“For a lot of Americans, especially the younger ones, they have never met a Soldier in real life,” said Army Staff Sgt. Reese Pendleton, a six-year veteran of the Golden Knights. “They may have seen them on TV or in movies, but this gives them a chance to put a face to who Soldiers are and what the Army represents.”
Throughout the past 53 years, the U.S. Army Parachute Team has created hundreds of millions of positive impressions for the Army by conducting more than 16,000 shows in all 50 states and 48 countries, reaching an average of 30 million people annually.
“What surprises most people is that our No. 1 mission isn’t jumping out of an airplane,” said Pendleton, who boasts more than 4,500 individual free falls. “Jumping is just a small portion of what we do. Our biggest mission (comes) once we are on the ground and interacting with the American public.
“We are given a very unique opportunity to meet and speak with the American populous in a way many service members can’t. That, in itself, is a true honor to be able to showcase the capabilities that the Army possesses.”
Made up of 89 Soldiers and civilians, who are divided into several sections and teams, the Golden Knights represent nearly every career field the Army has to offer.
However, the Golden Knights are always Soldiers first, as more than 93 percent of the team has combat experience.
Previously serving in a long-range surveillance unit, Pendleton said the Golden Knights consist of everyone from cooks to infantrymen and even some prior special forces Soldiers.
Although Pendleton has amassed nearly 5,000 free falls, the Army staff sergeant never had any desire to jump out of a perfectly good aircraft prior to joining the Army.
“In my previous job, we had no choice but to go to military free fall school,” he said. “But after my first jump out of that airplane, I was hooked and fell in love with the rush that comes along with it.”
While the Golden Knights haven’t performed at Travis since the 2008 Air Expo, they look forward to returning once again to one of California’s largest military installations.
“We know there will be a huge turnout for the upcoming Travis air show,” Pendleton said. “We are really looking forward to this show and can’t wait to meet the men and women of Travis Air Force Base, their families and the surrounding community.”
For more information about this year’s Travis Air Expo and Open House, log on to the official Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TravisOpenHouse or website at www.travisfss.com/openhouse.