Army skydiving team performs in Greenwood

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Aallyah Wright, Mississippi Today

Team awaits the appropriate time to jump off plane.

 

GREENWOOD –The U.S. Army Golden Knights, the army’s only competitive parachute team, is here this weekend for the first time for an airshow on Saturday at the Greenwood-Leflore Airport.

This airshow began at 1 p.m., but doors opened at 10 a.m.

This year’s show features the Knights, Aeroshell Aerobactic Team, jet-powered econoline van, P-40 aerobatic routine, P-51 formation aerobatics, classic car show, kinds inflatables, concession vendors and more.

The show is free to the public, but there is a parking fee of $10 dollars. There were free helicopter rides from 10 a.m. til noon.

Aallyah Wright, Mississippi Today

United States Army Sergeant First Class Keith Pierce packing his parachute

“This is our first time coming to the Greenwood airshow and we’re really happy to see how supportive Greenwood, Miss., is,” said U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Keith Pierce.

He said the airshow here has been going on for five years, and the Golden Knights applied.

The Golden Knights are a skydiving parachute team, based in Fort Bragg, N.C., that performs parachute demonstrations for people all over the world as the official ambassadors for the Army, said Pierce.

On Friday, 10 of the 12 team members performed a demonstration for the public with a social gathering that included barbecue and drinks. Mississippi Today got a chance to get on the plane with the members to witness the jumps.

The team can jump out of the plane from about 2,000 feet to 12,500 feet in the air and flies about 120 miles per hour.

“Typically, our full show jumps from 12,500 feet,” said Pierce. The average Golden Knight has about 1,200 jumps, said Pierce.

Army Sergeant First Class Brian Karst has more than 3,000 jumps. Karst has been on the team for five years, but has been skydiving for six years.

Karst said not being complacent is the most challenging part about the job. He said knowing you’re a professional performing for people is something all should keep in mind.

 “You jump airshow after airshow, but you have to realize every place you jump isn’t going to be the same, and you have to respect that area,” said Karst.  “You’re not only endangering yourself if you don’t pay attention, but you also endanger others that’s on the ground.”

Aallyah Wright, Mississippi Today

A few members practicing demonstrations of what they’re going to perform in the air

Not only does the team perform free falls, they also do canopy piloting which is flying their parachutes to a target in the landing area, said Pierce. They fly a few different flags such as the United States Army flag, the United States of America flag, and a flag of the state they’re in.

The team competes in different disciplines of formation skydiving such as four-way and eight-way formation free falling, canopy piloting, and vertical formation sky diving.

The airshow is an opportunity for the team and other members of the army to recruit and talk more about the army.

“I love seeing the people and really talk to them about the military and seeing the excitement in the people’s faces when we come around and do what we do,” said Army Sergeant First Class Steve Greene. “It’s so much enjoyment I get out of that.”

Greene said free falling is a lifestyle because you don’t want to let it go. He said doing it for the military is the best part about it.

“Its awesome just because I get to show other people my love for the military and show them my military story and what I go through to get to my point,” said Greene. Greene has been in the army for sixteen years and been deployed four times.

He said the appearances gives him a chance to share his “wealth of knowledge” with everyone that comes to the show.

The Golden Knights have performed more than 17,000 shows in all 50 states and 48 countries for about 20,000 people every show, according to a press release. The team is composed into nine sections, including, black and gold demonstration teams, tandem team, four competition teams, an aviation detachment and a headquarters section, stated in the release.

Some of the sponsors for the airshow include: Cannon Motors of Mississippi, Miller Lite, City of Greenwood, Development Foundation, Leflore County, and a host of others.