Members of the elite U.S. Army parachuting team Golden Knights tried out the Perrine Bridge last week.
They gave a thumbs-up for BASE jumping.
But they weren’t on their own. On their first official training for the newly formed Golden Knights Extreme, they reached out to accomplished BASE jumper Sean Chuma for help in learning the finer aspects of the sport.
Golden Knights Extreme — GKX for short — is a small part of the Golden Knights, created last year to give added appeal to crowds, especially younger audiences.
Its members are the creative experts responsible for keeping the Golden Knights on the cutting edge of skydiving.
The skydiving teams help with recruiting efforts, and serve as a way to “connect Americans with America’s Army,” said Megan Hackett, Golden Knights media information specialist.
And although GKX members are relatively new to BASE jumping, they have thousands of skydiving jumps between them.
“BASE jumping is a part of the parachuting world that we feel we can be a part of,” GPX team leader Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Lopez said.
And Chuma, a BASE-jumping fixture in Twin Falls who has logged more than 7,000 jumps, was thrilled to help.
“It’s been a huge honor to work with these guys,” Chuma said. “I’ve been a big fan ever since I was 14 or 15 years old.”
The Golden Knights are based in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, home of the 82nd Airborne Division.
Training options are being examined as opportunities to BASE jump are more limited in the East, Hackett said.
The team had its first show in October during “Bridge Day,” the one day every year BASE jumping is allowed from the New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville, West Virginia.
One thing for sure, Hackett said, is that this won’t be the only time GPX will visit Twin Falls.
“We’ll be back,” she said.
Idahoans will have a chance too see the Golden Knights in action Aug. 26-27 in Boise, although it hasn’t been decided at this time whether GPX will perform.
Team members like to have fun, Hackett said, but when it’s time to get down to business, they do just that.
Safety is a priority and the Perrine Bridge is known as a safe BASE jumping site, Hackett said, although Idaho’s winds can make jumping more difficult.
Garner pulled himself off a jump Friday afternoon due to him using a large parachute canopy that wouldn’t be conducive to the day’s windy weather. One thing Chuma taught the team was how to read weather patterns to help determine whether it’s safe to jump.
Each jump is a learning experience. After each one, members examined video taken from helmet cams to find ways for improvement.
Being on the Golden Knights has provided excitement in the lives of its members, and team members are on the road a majority of the year as they perform.
Staff Sgt. Matthew Garner, who grew up in Indiana and joined the military 14 years ago, was unacquainted with the Army’s skydiving program at the time, but eventually took the training to become a part of it. He’s been a member of the Golden Knights for more than two years.
Garner gives credit to other members of the military for doing their part to keep the country safe.
Jumping off the Perrine Bridge is “an adrenaline rush, for sure,” he said, but there is a very good chance that there’s an Apache helicopter pilot out there at this moment, having an equal adrenaline rush as well.
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