JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For more than 60 years, the United States Army Parachute Team has served as ambassadors of the Army. The team, the Golden Knights, is one of the most powerful parachuting competitors and demonstrators in the world. On Sunday they showed off their skills in the skies over Jacksonville Beach as part of the Sea and Sky Air Show.
"I like to tell people it's just another day at work for me with a nice view from the office," Staff Sgt. Daniel Gerlach, of the Golden Knights, said.
He said the Golden Knights first run though a practice on the ground, called a "dirt dive," where they go over all the maneuvers on the ground first so everyone knows exactly what they need to do in the air.
The team jumps from an altitude of 12,500 feet. The Golden Knights have performed in more than 21,000 shows in all 50 states, as well as 48 countries.
Gerlach has jumped more than 2,400 times.
"It's an absolute honor and privilege to be able to do what I love, which is skydiving for the Army, and to be able to represent the team," Gerlach said.
Millions of people around the world watch the Golden Knights every year as jumpers perform precision free-fall demonstrations.
"It's not a very common thing for people to sit next to an open door in an aircraft," Gerlach said as News4Jax reporter Brittany Muller and photojournalist Ciara Earrey sat right next to the open door at the back of the plane as the first jumper leaped out in front of the crowd.
"The crowd just absolutely loves it, the idea of jumping at 12,500 feet and landing in a 100-by-100-foot box," Gerlach said.
Although these team members jump hundreds of times a year, they said nothing compares to the feeling they get right before they jump.