“Arch. Relax. Have fun.”
Sounds easy, right?
Along with 14 other people — consisting of educators from the LA Unified School District and representatives from the Los Angeles Police Department and El Monte Police Department — I embarked on my most intense assignment yet: parachute jumping with the U.S. Army Golden Knights.
The Golden Knights is a demonstration and competition parachute team of the Army that performs at over 100 events a year and competes in national and international skydiving events.
“‘Golden’ signified the gold medals the team had won while ‘Knights’ alluded to the team’s ambition to conquer the skies,” according to the Army’s website of how the select group got its name.
This tandem skydive experience required a trek to Perris, California, which is located nearly two hours outside of Los Angeles. Once there, we went through an hourlong safety briefing.
Most of us who participated were first-time jumpers and were initially quite anxious, as thoughts of being suspended somewhere around 12,500 feet will make you feel that way. However, the Golden Knights ensured that everyone felt comfortable.
“Three things that we’d like you to remember and that’s to smile at the camera, to arch when you exit out of the airplane and to have a good time, take all your commands from your instructor,” Sergeant First Class (SFC) Tom Melton, a Golden Knights tandem coordinator, told the Asian Journal.
SFC Noah Watts — who has done around 5,900 jumps, 2,300 of which were tandems — added that “when it comes to something challenging, I don’t necessarily look at it as challenging because it’s a learning experience for one.”
My partner was Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Espinosa, an asset team leader for the tandem jump section who has been with the Army for eight years and the Golden Knights for seven.
Though my jump was postponed a day later due to weather conditions, I ended up talking to other members of the Army and learned about the benefits of joining the service.
“I would encourage anybody out there to consider a career with United States Army. There’s a multitude of different reasons to join and to serve — the training, adventure, travel, educational benefits, a chance to mature and get an edge in life, there is a college loan repayment option. If you want to be in professional services we’ve got doctors, we’ve got lawyers, and like I said, pilots. There are all different sorts of jobs out there. So there’s something for everybody,” Melton said.
On the day itself, I was prepared, educated and trained enough that I didn’t have second thoughts about jumping. I was able to enjoy the experience, take in the sights and admire all the hard work and training that the Golden Knights do.