By Gene Galin
Pittsboro, NC – In an extraordinary display of precision and skill, the United States Army Golden Knights are set to electrify the skies above Seaforth High School football stadium on September 22, 2023, with a breathtaking parachute jump before the start of the Friday night football game. As the sun sets over Chatham County, spectators will witness a spectacle, a testament to the rigorous training and dedication of these remarkable individuals.
Among these jumpers is SPC Army Specialist Brandon Hexum. He was out at Seaforth on Thursday afternoon doing a site survey in preparation for the jump. He sat down with me in the pressbox and during our conversation shared insights into the world of the Golden Knights and the preparations leading up to this Friday’s event. Here’s a small glimpse into the world of aerial daredevils and the elite unit that embodies the spirit of the U.S. Army.
The Golden Knights: A Legacy of Excellence
The story of the United States Army Golden Knights dates back to 1959 when they were founded with a mission to develop new techniques and equipment, aid in recruitment efforts, and foster a strong connection with the American public. Over the years, the Golden Knights have become synonymous with excellence in skydiving and aerial displays. Today, they continue to inspire countless individuals while showcasing the Army’s commitment to excellence and precision.
Preparing for the Jump: A Fine-Tuned Operation
The preparations for a any parachute jump are meticulous and demanding. Specialist Hexum, as the advanced man, plays a pivotal role in ensuring that all the pieces fall into place. The site survey he conducted on Thursday afternoon serves to identify potential hazards, a crucial step in ensuring a safe jump for the team. From scheduling to paperwork, he meticulously oversees the myriad details that culminate in an impressive display of precision and skill.
Weather: The Ultimate Decider
While the spectacle of a parachute jump can be awe-inspiring, it is heavily dependent on weather conditions. The Golden Knights require a minimum altitude of 2,000 feet to ensure the safety of their jumps, with visibility being a paramount concern. Additionally, winds must not exceed 20 miles per hour for a successful descent.
From Skydiving Enthusiast to Golden Knight: Brandon Hexum’s Journey
For Specialist Hexum, the journey into the world of parachuting began with a single tandem jump with his mother in 2012. That experience ignited a passion for skydiving that eventually led him to the Golden Knights. In 2020, a chance encounter with the Golden Knights at Skydive Chicago changed the course of his life. This meeting ultimately led him to join the Army and try out for the prestigious team.
Daring Maneuvers: The Cutaway
One of Specialist Hexum’s most memorable jumps involves the Cutaway. As Brandon explains, the “Cutaway” maneuver is a demonstration of the Golden Knights’ exceptional skill and the redundancy built into their equipment. It involves releasing one parachute, intentionally entering free fall, and then deploying a backup parachute. This daring maneuver showcases their ability to handle parachute malfunctions with grace and precision.
Training for Excellence: Pushing the Limits
To reach the pinnacle of skydiving prowess, the Golden Knights undergo rigorous training. Specialist Hexum and his teammates spend eight weeks in Florida each year, averaging around 200 jumps per person. During this period, they become proficient in various maneuvers that captivate audiences during their performances.
The Significance of Hand Signals
A crucial element of their communication during jumps is hand signals. In the deafening roar of the plane’s engines, hand signals become a critical form of communication. These signals are vital for conveying critical information, especially inside the noisy confines of the aircraft. From wind calls to safety checks, hand signals are the silent language of the Golden Knights.
Altitude Matters: How High Do They Go?
The Golden Knights typically jump from altitudes ranging from 2,000 to 12,500 feet above the ground. The altitude depends on the type of show they are performing. The higher jumps offer even more spectacular views of the landscape, making for a truly breathtaking experience.
A Tight-Knit Unit: The Brotherhood of the Golden Knights
With only 89 members in the entire Golden Knights organization, it’s easy to see why this elite unit is considered a tight-knit family. Specialist Hexum belongs to the Black Demonstration Team, one of four teams within the organization, each specializing in different types of jumps and displays.
Choosing Seaforth: A Connection to the Community
For the Golden Knights, performing at Seaforth High School is about fostering a strong bond with the local community. The proximity to Fort Liberty allows them to engage with the people they serve and protect, sharing their skills and dedication.
A Precision Operation: Planning for Tomorrow’s Jump
Friday’s parachute jump into Seaforth High School requires a meticulous plan. The Golden Knights will be flying in on UV 18 Viking Twin Otter aircraft, one of five planes in their fleet. To ensure safety, an elaborate dirt dive on the ground familiarizes the team with the jump’s details, ensuring a seamless performance.
An American Symbol: The POW/MIA Flag
During the jump, Specialist Hexum and his fellow Golden Knights will be carrying the POW/MIA flag, symbolizing their commitment to remembering and honoring those who never returned from their service. This poignant gesture underscores the unity and resilience of the U.S. military.
Recruitment and Engagement: Inspiring the Next Generation
The Golden Knights are more than just skydivers; they are ambassadors for the U.S. Army. After the jump, they will be available at a recruitment tent near the concession stand, ready to answer questions about Army life and the world of free-fall parachuting. It’s an opportunity for young individuals to learn about the possibilities that lie ahead.
Safety First: Ensuring a Secure Experience
Safety is paramount for the Golden Knights. A dedicated ground member will continuously monitor conditions on the field. The decision to jump is contingent upon the ground member’s assessment, ensuring that the audience witnesses a flawless and secure performance.
A Message of Inspiration
For Specialist Hexum and his fellow Golden Knights, the joy of inspiring the American public is unparalleled. Their daring jumps and aerial acrobatics captivate the imaginations of children and adults alike. It’s a reminder that when it comes to pursuing one’s dreams, the sky’s the limit.
Counting the Jumps: A Year of Thrills
Specialist Hexum has completed close to 400 jumps this year alone, each one adding to his extraordinary experience. However, one jump stands out as particularly memorable: the Chicago jump, where he soared over the city’s skyline, leaving an indelible mark on his memory. It also didn’t hurt that his family was there to watch him perform.
Conclusion: Soaring High and Inspiring Dreams
As the United States Army Golden Knights prepare to descend upon Seaforth High School, they bring with them not only their outstanding aerial skills but also a message of unity, resilience, and dedication. Specialist Brandon Hexum and his teammates embody the indomitable spirit of the U.S. Army while inspiring audiences with their breathtaking jumps and daring maneuvers. Their precision and expertise are a testament to the rigorous training they undergo.
For those eager to witness this event, be at Seaforth High School by 7:00 PM, as the first jump is scheduled for precisely 7:15 PM. Don’t miss your chance to see the United States Army Golden Knights in action. Those curious about joining the Army or experiencing the thrill of free-fall parachuting, can visit the recruitment tent near the concession stand to learn more.
Watch my conversation with Brandon Hexum about the US Army Golden Knights at Seaforth
00:12 SPC Army specialist Brandon Hexum will be doing a parachute jump into Seaforth High School.
- Brandon Hexum is part of the United States Army parachute team, also known as the golden knights.
- The golden knights have been around since 1959 and were developed to help develop new techniques and equipment and to gain a good connection with the American public.
- Brandon Hexum is the advanced man for the jump and is responsible for ensuring all scheduling and paperwork is in order.
01:56 The speaker discusses the parameters for safe skydiving, including altitude and wind speed.
- Skydivers need to be at least 2,000 feet in altitude and able to see the ground from the aircraft.
- Winds must be under 20 miles per hour for safe skydiving.
03:39 Performed parachute maneuvers showing malfunction recovery
- Performed free fall spin for 10 seconds then released one side of risers and started to spin out of control
- Released other side of risers, went back into free fall, and opened second parachute as a demonstration
- Undergo 8 weeks of training in Florida, averaging 200 jumps per person, to get qualified on maneuvers
- Hand signals are important for gathering information, especially winds, while in the plane
05:19 The Golden Knights is a tight-knit organization with 89 people and 4 teams.
- The Golden Knights perform canopy relative work, where they crash parachutes into each other.
- They primarily use hand signals on the plane but communicate with radios during connected parachute flights.
- They jump from at least 2,000 feet and sometimes as high as 12,500 feet.
- The organization has the black and gold demonstration teams, a competition team, and a tandem team.
- The colors of the teams are black and gold, representing the Army.
- The Golden Knights participate in around 100 events per year, including one in Cape Girardeau on September 8.
07:07 The team is participating in the balloon races in St Louis.
- Attendance is expected to be lower due to the smaller population in Chatham County.
- The team chose Seaforth High School to foster a close bond with the community.
- The nearest airport is a 25 minutes drive from the location.
- A ‘dirt dive’ is performed as a preparation before every jump.
- The team will be flying in with the Pow Mia flag and bringing the game ball.
08:50 The Army Golden Knights parachute team is preparing for a jump with UV 18 Viking twin otters and c-147s.
- The team has five planes in total: three UV 18 Viking twin otters and two c-147s.
- The duration of the planes’ service life is uncertain, but they recently added the c-147s to their fleet.
- The team is implementing safety precautions and will begin the first jump at 7:15 AM.
10:32 Safety is the top priority before conducting jumps.
- A ground guy ensures everything is safe.
- Jump will not take place unless it is deemed safe.
- Recruitment station will be set up at the event.
- Golden Knights’ parachutists will be present.
- After the jump, the parachutists will go to the recruitment tent.
- They will interact with the crowd and answer questions about the Army.
- Army recruiters will also be present to assist.
- The biggest joy comes from inspiring the American public, especially kids.
- The parachutists has done close to 400 jumps this year.
- The most memorable jump out of the 400 is not mentioned.
12:22 Skydiving event Friday evening
- Arrive early for the best experience
- Landing time is at 7:15 PM
- 🪂 Brandon Hexum is part of the United States Army parachute team, the Golden Knights, which was established in 1959 to develop new techniques and equipment for recruitment and public connection.
- 🪂 They are preparing for a parachute jump into Seaforth High School, with Brandon likely being the first to jump.
- 🪂 Brandon’s interest in skydiving began with a tandem parachute jump with his mom after high school, leading him to join the Golden Knights in 2020.
- 🪂 The Golden Knights conduct extensive training with an average of about 200 jumps per person in eight weeks, focusing on various maneuvers.
- 🪂 Hand signals are crucial during jumps, especially for wind information, due to the noise in the plane.
- 🪂 Jumps can vary in altitude, with a minimum of 2,000 feet, and they use UV 18 Viking twin otter planes.
- 🪂 The Golden Knights consist of about 89 members across different teams, including demonstration teams, a competition team, and an administrative section.
- 🪂 They perform around 100 events per year, drawing crowds of up to 60,000 people.
- 🪂 Safety is the top priority, and jumps only occur when ground safety personnel ensure it’s safe.
- 🪂 They will have a recruitment station at the event for those interested in learning more about the Army.
- 🪂 Brandon’s most memorable jump was in Chicago, where his family was present
- 🪂 Wind conditions determine the landing direction during jumps, with parachutists landing against the wind for better stopping power.
Don’t forget to attend the event early if you want to witness the Golden Knights’ parachute jump at 7:15.