The U.S. Army Parachute Team the Golden Knights’ 2017 Assessment and Selection program retained six outstanding Soldiers for inclusion in the prestigious ranks of the Golden Knights.
It is a time-honored tradition and great privilege to earn the status of a Golden Knight with the mission to represent the “Army to the American Public.”
Members who completed the eight-week rigorous training program were knighted as official USAPT members of the Golden Knights, last Friday, at 10 a.m. in a special ceremony at the NCO Academy Parade Field.
This year the team received 15 applications, but only six were selected for the “tryouts” held Sept. 5 to Nov. 2. This year’s Soldiers came from various military occupations and Army posts to accept the challenge of auditioning. Regardless of their reasons for wanting to be a Golden Knight, all hopefuls were quite determined to become a member of the Army’s elite precision parachute team.
The Soldiers endured 16- to 18-hour training days, seven days a week with a typical day beginning at 4 a.m. The Soldiers conducted physical training and departed for the Golden Knights training area at Laurinburg-Maxton Airport, North Carolina.
Their days consisted of extremely demanding physical training to gain endurance and to prevent injuries. They were tested on leadership and teamwork and conducted over 150 high-altitude jumps.
The distinct honor of earning a spot on the team requires the individual to have an exemplary demeanor, professionalism and teamwork to always display an exceptional Army image.
The cadre, Staff Sgt. Blake Gaynor, Sgt. 1st Class Keith Pierce, Sgt. 1st Class Teigh Statler, Sgt. 1st Class Ken Severin and Sgt. 1st Class Jon Lopez, executed a demanding curriculum to hone the candidates individual skydiving and accuracy skills, mastering difficult aerial maneuvers, memorizing narrations, team history, team building, conducting Army Grassroots Outreach training and learning the individual and collective tasks required as a knight.
Last Friday, Spc. Adam Munoz, Sgt. 1st Class Richard Young, Staff Sgts. Jacob Kerkow, Jessie Robbins, Andreas Sippl and Sgt. Jason Bauder, made their 174th jump of the program into their graduation ceremony.
Throughout the duration of the program, the candidates and cadre have completed 1,950 free fall parachute jumps. Each new member of the Golden Knights recited the last line of the Golden Knight Creed as they were “knighted” into the Army’s only Department of Defense parachute team by Lt. Col. Carlos Ramos, Golden Knights’ commander. As is tradition, each Knight knelt before the team commander, Ramos and Command Sgt. Maj. Rodney O’Dell and were knighted with the team’s Excalibur Sword and stated, “When I have gained the respect, admiration and gratitude of the American public and my team mates, then I have fulfilled my mission as a Golden Knight.”
Sippl said he was very excited about becoming a Golden Knight and that it had always been his dream.
Bauder said, “It feels absolutely fantastic. We have come through an incredible journey to this point. After my year or so on the demonstration team, I would love to move on to a canopy piloting team as a competitor but I know it is a long road to hoe, so I plan to work as hard as I can to hopefully get there.”
Ramos congratulated and welcomed the Soldiers to USAPT.
“I remember addressing the candidates the first day of GKAS, telling them to ‘Give it your best effort. Put your best foot forward. Remember always conduct yourself in the outmost professional manner,’” he said. “The path to Knighthood was extremely difficult and challenging. Our Assessment and Selection Cadre tested your physical and mental toughness and abilities, but you raised to the challenge, overcame adversity and have been found worthy to join the ranks of the Golden Knights. I’m extremely excited for you and for our organization and welcome you to the ranks of the Golden Knights. You are now members of the most highly-trained, capable and skilled Soldiers who embody the highest personal and professional attributes, while maintaining the mental and physical toughness keeping the highest traditions and history of the Golden Knights,” said Ramos.
The modern-day knights, the Army’s “Official Ambassadors,” have a job to be the face of every Soldier in the Army.
They all vowed to follow the legacy of their predecessor’s pledge: “Under a canopy of black and gold I fly the colors of the Army. I volunteered to become an ambassador of my service and I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor, high standards and the esprit de corps of the United States Army Parachute Team.”