Monday, February 08, 2016

The Army’s elite Golden Knights Parachute Team touched down in parking lot C outside the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, during their first practice before the 2016 Army All-American Bowl game.

At approximately 6,000 feet, the four-soldier team exited their UV18 Viking Twin Otter plane over the stadium, floating for about 20 seconds before opening their parachutes, performing a crew stack – aligning their parachutes with each other – and deploying smoke, before landing outside the dome.

The Army Golden Knights performed before the Army All-American Bowl, the premier game for the nation’s top high school football players.

"It was nice and cool up there, but a little warm on the ground," said Staff Sgt. Trey Martin, a soldier on the Golden Knights.

Adding, "[I] think it is going to be a great show for all the American public who are coming out to see us tomorrow."

Martin, a native Texan, had ulterior motives when returning to his home state at such a high altitude.

"San Antonio is great, but I was looking for Houston the whole time," Martin joked, giving some love to his hometown.

He added, "I got a pretty good canopy ride, but I was looking off in the distance while floating around – nice and safe –which is exactly what we do."

Visiting downtown San Antonio has become an annual event for the team with a hectic schedule that includes stops at the annual Army-Navy football game and airshows throughout the nation.

However, this was the first year the team performed demonstrations at the Alamodome.

Touching down on the hard pavement of a crowded stadium parking lot in a dense city might not be a new challenge, but it has its risks all the same.

"Attention to detail is a very important part of our job," said Sgt. 1st Class Shelby Bixler of Port Huron, Mich., a Golden Knights soldier.

"We go through our safety checks at least three or four times before we exit the aircraft."

Since the team was created in 1953, it has performed in more than 16,000 events and typically travels about 270 days per year.

Bixler, a four-year team member, said jumping out of a plane never gets old, despite her jump count growing to more than 1,000.

Some Golden Knights have as many as 16,000 jumps.

"To be able to land on target, to wave at the crowd, interact with the crowd, walk through the crowd and then, go sign autographs, which is the highlight of what we do," she said.

Sgt. Brandon Hubbard