Para-Commandos Parachuting Demonstration Teams

••• DoD

Military Parachute Teams demonstrate professional excellence by performing precision aerial maneuvers throughout the United States in support of public outreach.  Participation in these teams is governed by appropriate DoD and Branch-specific regulations and instructions.

There are and have been several parachuting teams representing the Armed Forces, and I am in no way attempting to discuss all of them.  Starting from the DoD level.

Formed in 1991, the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Parachute Team, called the Para-Commandos, is composed of volunteers from the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Marine Corps (as well as U.S. government civilians) who are assigned to Special Operations Command. Members are selected for the team after a rigorous training program, and participate with the USSOCOM Parachute Team in addition to their regular duties, with training conducted during off-duty time.

The USSOCOM Parachute Team has appeared at numerous air shows (military and civilian), sporting events at all levels (professional, college, high) and various patriotic, civic and school celebrations throughout the United States. Members of the USSOCOM Parachute Team have established themselves as showmen, traveling ambassadors, and Special Operations Forces recruiters for the Department of Defense.

Going down to the individual branches:

United States Air Force

Wings of Blue - The primary mission of the Wings of Blue is to run the Air Force Academy’s Basic Freefall Parachuting course. Members of the team serve primarily as jumpmasters and instructors for this course, devoting most of their time to teaching students about parachuting and training them to make unassisted freefall skydives.  Each cadet member of the team is required to be a qualified jumpmaster and instructor in the Air Force Academy parachuting program. Additionally, the members must also maintain high academic and military standards to remain with the team.

Members of the parachute team average about 600 jumps by the time they graduate.

The Wings of Blue has both a demonstration team and a competition team. The demonstration team travels across the country to air shows, sporting events, and other venues to represent the Air Force in precision parachuting. Similarly, the competition team represents the Air Force by competing with teams from around the country in 6-way speed formations, 4-way relative work, 2-way free fly, and sport accuracy.

United States Army

The Army fields several Parachute demonstration teams.

The Black Daggers are the official U.S. Army Special Operations Command Parachute Demonstration Team. The Black Daggers’ mission is to perform live aerial demonstrations in support of U.S. Army Special Operations Command community relations and recruiting.

The Black Daggers team is comprised entirely of volunteers from throughout the Army Special Operations community.  They use a military variant of the Ram Air parachute that allows them to jump with more than 100 lbs. of military equipment attached. They must also withstand the high winds, frigid temperatures and low oxygen common at high altitude, requiring the jumper to be highly skilled.

Golden Knights

Formed in 1959, the Golden Knights were organized with the intent of competing in what was then the new and Soviet-dominated sport of skydiving.  Today, the Golden Knights' mission as part of the U.S. Army Marketing and Research Group is to support the U.S. Army’s recruiting and public relations efforts.

The Golden Knights are divided into several groups - Black & Gold Demonstration Teams; Tandem Team; Competition Team (8-Way, 4-Way and Canopy Piloting); Aviation Detachment and Headquarters Detachment.  The Black and Gold Demonstration Teams spend more than 230 days a year entertaining millions of spectators around the world and have earned the title "Army's Goodwill Ambassadors to the World."   

The Golden Knights competition teams are formed by the Formation Skydiving Team and the Style and Accuracy Team. These teams tour the world to compete in parachuting competitions.  Over the length of their existence, the teams have earned 408 national championships, 65 world championships, and 14 national and six world team titles in formation skydiving. These impressive feats have made them not only the most-winning U.S. Department of Defense sports team but the most-winning parachute team in the world.

The USMA Parachute Team conducts parachute demonstrations into stadiums and fields for any Army home game. Additionally, the Black Knights perform demonstrations and make appearances at the request of other organizations, weather permitting. Though specializing in stadium demonstration, the team is capable of jumping into any open field or area. The main purpose of their demonstrations is to publicize the United States Military Academy and leave a positive impression on the viewers.

All American

The 82nd Airborne Division, located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, fields the All American Parachute Demonstration Team, which represents the 82nd Airborne Division at military functions, exhibitions, special events, and competitions, demonstrating individual, formation, and other precision freefall skydiving techniques.

United States Navy

The Chuting Stars - organized in 1961, the Chuting Stars was established to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of Naval Aviation.  The team was disbanded in 1964 due to budget cuts, and reestablished in 1969 – only to be disbanded again in 1971. 

The Leap Frogs - based in San Diego, the Leap Frogs had stated out as the West Coast UDT SEAL  Para Team, with some members of the original Chuting Stars.  As the team grew in both size and reputation, they adopted the name Leap Frogs.

In 1969, the West Coast Para Team was officially designated by the Navy Recruiting Command as the Navy Parachute Team. About the same time, the East Coast UDT SEAL Para Team was established. 

In the mid-1970s, the two teams were combined under the Navy Parachute Team umbrella.  Basically using the Mississippi River as a dividing line for demonstrations, the West Coast continued to use Leap Frogs as their team name, while the East Coast Team adopted Chuting Stars as their team name.  In the mid 1980s, the East Coast UDT SEAL Para Team was disbanded, leaving the Leap Frogs as the official parachute team of the United States Navy.

Today, the Leap Frogs perform aerial parachute demonstrations in support of Naval Special Warfare and Navy recruiting.  The team consists of fifteen Navy SEALs, SWCCs, and Parachute Riggers that are assigned to Naval Special Warfare. Each member is a volunteer and assigned for a three-year tour, and are drawn from the Naval Special Warfare Groups located on the east and west coasts.

United States Marine Corps

The Marine Corps does not have an official parachute demonstration team, however, Marine Corps parachutists are authorized to participate in jumps/skydiving demonstrations in support of public events – though this authorization is limited to personnel who have completed military parachute training at Ft. Benning, Georgia, and who are currently serving in billets that require continuous parachute proficiency. There are further requirements set out in Marine Corps Order P5720.73 (Change 1) – Marine Corps Aviation Support of the Community Relations Program Manual

Patrick Long: