Golden Knights: CASA Skydives with Army Tandem Parachute Squad
Golden Knights: CASA skydives with Army tandem parachute squad
Fort Campbell Public Affairs Office
Story by Leejay Lockhart
Posted: 04.28.2017 15:06
News ID: 231979
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Early Tuesday a large group of people gathered in the upstairs conference room at the terminal of the Clarksville Regional Airport. The day began with, Sgt. 1st Class Joe Jones, a team leader for the U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights tandem team, explaining to the crowd how to jump out of a plane while connected to a Soldier.
Less than half of the people in the room were there to skydive with the Golden Knights. The rest were friends, Family and media who came out for the event. As Jones went over safety instructions, and provided information to instill confidence in the parachutes and other equipment used on the jump, a thick fog shrouded Outlaw Field. The team’s plane waited silently on the tarmac for the fog to dissipate.
Jack Turner, a Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army, was one of the 35 people who agreed to jump out of a plane with the Golden Knights on Monday and Tuesday. As somebody who is petrified of heights and does not like to be on a step ladder, Turner had not asked for the opportunity, but Maj. Gen. Andrew P. Poppas, commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division and Fort Campbell, invited him to do it and Turner accepted.
He was relieved when years ago a scheduling conflict had kept him from jumping with the Golden Knights then, but this time was different.
“Well he put me on the spot as he intended to do, but it was all good fun.” Turner said.
Turner has been a CASA for 12 years and works in the insurance financial service business in Clarksville, he is also in the beer business. As a CASA his job is to be a liaison between the Secretary of the Army’s office, the community and the military.
Turner said he is constantly at Fort Campbell doing everything possible to be of assistance to the Soldiers and units at Fort Campbell, whether they are in the 101st Abn. Div., 5th Special Forces Group, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, or any of the other tenant units.
Despite serving as an artillery officer for six months in the period between the Korean War and the Vietnam War and doing seven and a half years in the Reserves, Turner said he felt like he has learned more about the Army living in Clarksville and being a CASA.
“I never considered myself in the Army the same way that my friends are in the Army today, because I didn’t have the full experience,” Turner said. “Then when I became a CASA that was just icing on the cake. I love this assignment.”
Turner has seen how the people who live around Fort Campbell have supported the post and how Fort Campbell has worked to be a good neighbor as it engages with its surrounding communities.
“It’s absolutely incredible,” Turner said. “The whole region of Clarksville, Hopkinsville, Oak Grove and all of the other surrounding communities embrace the military. They are our friends, they are our neighbors, we go to church with them, and we appreciate what they do. Most particularly we appreciate what their Families do … our communities embrace them, we welcome them, we appreciate them, we love them, and we hope that they know that.”
Turner said Fort Campbell has reciprocated the community’s support, by always being there to help when the communities are in need whether it’s to help in the aftermath of a flood or a tornado as well as by supporting initiatives in the region or while acting as an economic engine throughout Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky. Plus he constantly sees Soldiers being good citizens and taking part in community activities.
“Part of what helps … is outreach programs, where we’re seeing Soldiers in uniform who are participating in civic clubs and all sorts of activities where they are telling the Army story,” Turner said. “We must tell the Army story today as much as ever before.”
When his time came, Turner put on the yellow jumpsuit and his harness. After a final briefing, Turner, Staff Sgt. Ken Severin, who was wearing the tandem parachute and Sgt. 1st Class Brian Sealing, who would record Turner during freefall, along with other jumpers and Golden Knights climbed onto the UV-18C, the military version of the SHC-6 Twin Otter, and prepared for takeoff.
Within moments the plane had taxied to the end of the runways, then revved its engines and began ascending to approximately 13,500 feet, where Turner and the others would jump out of the plane.
Turner may have been apprehensive, but he was all smiles as the airplane continued gaining altitude. He did a short video interview with Sealing then Severin connected the tandem harness to Turner and they were ready to exit the aircraft. When the plane finally leveled off, Turner and Severin waddled to the open door and jumped first into the cold air more than 2 miles above Outlaw Field.
It took about 45 seconds of freefall for the pair to hurtle 8,500 feet from the plane and deploy their shoot at 5,000 feet. At that point it was a leisurely descent to the ground.
“It was a great thrill and I thought that I would be literally positively scared to death, but I never was,” Turner said. “The scariest part was in the plane ... at the door. That was the scariest part. Even when we fell out, I wasn’t afraid.”
He said it was an “incredible” experience that was probably impossible to adequately describe.
The reason the Golden Knights came to Clarksville was to assist in something important to Turner and that is recruiting the best people into the Army. This year Army recruiters have received one of their most challenging missions ever and they have to contend with that much of the American population is not eligible to serve in the military said Lt. Col. Kevin Polosky, commander of the Nashville recruiting battalion that hosted the event.
“We’re not just looking for anybody to put in,” Polosky said. “We consider ourselves an elite Army and we want to put elite kids in. So that’s our challenge. It’s not just we need to put more people in so we’ll go get more people to put in. We have to get the right kid, the right young male or female to put in the Army as we continue to try to grow the force.”
“I have emotions when I see people in uniform, whether they are on the division parade ground, whether I see them at work, where ever I see them I have a deep seated emotion because I know the sacrifices that they and their Families are making for all of us,” Turner said. “What’s a problem today in America is not only are fewer and fewer people wearing the uniform. Most people in America don’t even know anybody that wears a uniform. That is the saddest part of all, when less than one percent of the American population is in military service.”
Polosky said that by bringing in members of the community as partners and building upon relationship like the one that exists between the recruiting battalion and Fort Campbell that it allows for events where people can experience the Army and tell others about it. He added the Golden Knights are a good way of introducing people to the Army.
“It’s incredibly effective,” Polosky said. “These people are having a once in a lifetime experience that wherever they go this will be a story that they tell and the Army is involved in that story in a positive way. So that’s really what we want them to take away, that everywhere we go, everyplace and who they talk to they’ll be able to tell about their experience with the Army.”