Monday, March 16, 2009

U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team Kicks Off 50th Anniversary Celebration

/PRNewswire/ -- The Golden Knights, the U.S. Army's official parachute demonstration team, kicked off their 50th anniversary today during a special ceremony that celebrated the team's half century of serving the country as Army ambassadors while also representing more than one million American Soldiers.

"Fifty years ago, the Golden Knights were established to compete in the sport of parachuting," said Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, Commanding General of U.S. Army Accessions Command. "Today, they are just one example of the many unique and interesting career opportunities available in the U.S. Army. The Golden Knights illustrate how the U.S. Army can help you achieve your goals with over 150 different career specialties - whether it is to become a doctor, an engineer, or even a computer technician. The Golden Knights of the Army Parachute Team represent the best of our Army: noncommissioned officers, technically superior soldier-athletes who daily demonstrate the Army values. In the Army's 'Year of the NCO,' it is fitting to celebrate 50 years of sustained excellence by our Golden Knight NCOs and their officers."

Formed in 1959 as a Strategic Army Corps Sport Parachute Team, the Golden Knights' initial purpose was to compete in the then communist-dominated sport of free-fall parachuting. The team performed so well that on June 1, 1961 the Army officially recognized, designated and activated the team as the U.S. Army Parachute Team.

Since then, the Golden Knights have awed audiences across the country and the globe at air shows and competitions. More recently, the team has conducted high-profile tandem jumps with dignitaries such as former President George H.W. Bush, who jumped for his 80th birthday along with friend Chuck Norris, as well as celebrities such as Tiger Woods, Ann Curry, Bill Murray and David Hasselhoff.

Today, the Golden Knights consist of two demonstration teams which travel nationwide performing aerial demonstrations at air shows and special events in support of Army recruiting efforts, and two competition teams which travel and compete nationally and internationally at various parachuting competitions. Year after year, the Golden Knights continuously bring home honors and are the most successful U.S. Department of Defense sports team.

"Like every U.S. Army Soldier, the Golden Knights exhibit a strength like no other - developed through half a century of challenging training, a spirit of teamwork and a set of shared values," added Col. David Lee, Director of Marketing for the U.S. Army Accessions Command. "Although the Golden Knights have a unique mission, throughout their history they have represented something even more special - the strength that can only be gained through being a U.S. Army Soldier."

Participants in the anniversary celebration included the Honorable Secretary of the Army Pete Geren, Golden Knights alumni, including several original members of the 1959 team and Sonny Hill, president of the team's alumni association.

As part of the event the Golden Knights unveiled a special 50th anniversary patch which all team members will wear throughout the year. Busts for former team members Sgt. 1st Class Pedro Munoz, the first combat fatality in Afghanistan who jumped with the Golden Knights from 1998 to 2002, logging more than 4,000 freefall parachute jumps while shining for the Gold Demonstration team, and Chief Warrant Officer Michael J. "Mike" Novosel, a former pilot with the Golden Knights who earned the Medal of Honor for actions in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot, were also dedicated in recognition of their service.

"We have proudly represented the U.S. Army with every jump taken over the last 50 years. Each successful Golden Knights mission honors the sacrifices and accomplishments our fellow Soldiers make every day, whether they're fighting overseas or serving back home making a difference for their families, their communities and the nation," said Lt. Col. Anthony Dill, Commander of the Golden Knights. "To celebrate our 50th Anniversary this year, the Golden Knights will honor our unique history, all past and present members, our fellow U.S. Army Soldiers and the American public each time we jump."

As part on their ongoing 50th anniversary celebration, the Golden Knights have a variety of special activities planned for the coming months, including jumps into the new Yankees Stadium and the Statue of Liberty grounds in New York City.

The team will also continue to perform at air shows, compete on an international level and perform high-profile tandem jumps. In addition, the Golden Knights will visit high schools to work with local recruiters and help show young adults the variety of opportunities available in the U.S. Army.

For more information about the Golden Knights year-long 50th anniversary celebration or to learn more about the team's unique history and to view a schedule of events, visit

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