If you’ve ever attended a large event at Fort Bragg, you’ve probably seen either the Golden Knights or Black Daggers jump into the middle of the crowd. A narrator explains what each of the jumpers are doing as they gracefully glide down to the earth.
The Soldiers who make up the parachute demonstration teams are highly skilled individuals who work hard to land a spot on the team. Many of them also compete around the world in solo and team competitions. So who are they?
Golden Knights
The Golden Knights official name is the United States Army Parachute Team. The “Golden Knights” moniker is a nickname adopted by the team in 1962. The “gold” was a reference to the many gold medals the team won during competitions, and “knights” was included as a way to signify that the Soldiers were champions of a set of ideals and principals.
The Golden Knights are highly-competent, professional jumpers who must go through a screening and selection process before they can become part of the prestigious team. Tryouts are held when positions with the teams become available.
There are two demonstration teams with the Knights — the Black Team and the Gold Team. These two teams, comprised of 12 members each, travel worldwide performing for various audiences. They often jump into events held at Fort Bragg, including the upcoming Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Main Post Parade Field on Nov. 30.
On top of performing for crowds, the Golden Knights also compete across the globe in various parachute competitions. The Eight Way Formation Skydiving Team took first place at the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale World Cup of Formation Skydiving in Saarlouis, Germany in August. Members of the Golden Knights also compete individually in skydiving competitions.
Performing a tandem jump with the Golden Knights can be seen as a great honor. George H.W. Bush celebrated his 85th birthday by tandem jumping with the Golden Knights in Maine in 2009. For the 2016 All American Week Review, the then Undersecretary of the Army, Patrick Murphy, performed a tandem jump into St. Mere-Eglise Drop Zone before reviewing the troops of the 82nd Airborne Division.
Black Daggers
The U.S. Army Special Operations Command Parachute Demonstration Team is the Special Operations counterpart to the Golden Knights. They are nicknamed the Black Daggers in reference to the black dagger worn by USASOC Soldiers. The Daggers were established in 1952. All of the jumpers are volunteers who are associated with the Special Operations community.
The Black Daggers use a Ram Air parachute. It’s a specific chute that allows them to carry more weight while jumping. The Daggers specialize in high-altitude, low opening jumps. In addition to these HALO jumps, they also occasionally perform high-altitude, high opening jumps, a special type of jump that allows the parachutist to travel for many miles before they make their landing.
The Black Daggers perform for events around the country and help with recruiting. Earlier this year, the Black Daggers performed a HALO jump as part of an opening ceremony for the 14th Annual Airborne 7s Tournament, a yearly rugby event hosted by Bragg Rugby.
Both of the parachute demonstration teams located at Fort Bragg are full of highly skilled individuals who make jumping out of airplanes part of their daily lives.