LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — This Veterans Day, the I-Team is taking you on a ride with the Golden Knights. No, not the hockey team, but an elite group in the US Army!
Like many of us, COVID-19 has affected what they do, including recruitment.
Training for the military is never easy, but this group goes through even more training to safely jump out of a plane and take students with them.
It’s one way the Army does outreach.
“During the beginning part of COVID, we had a downturn, and then we’re not kind of figuring out how to get messaging out again,” said shared Brett Christensen, company commander in army recruiting.
The Golden Knights are the US Army’s aerial parachute demonstration team. They’ve been around since long before our beloved Vegas Knights.
The elite team travels, making stops and giving tandem rides, but the pandemic put these trips and other recruitment efforts to a halt.
“The army still needs young people to join, and young people still need a great job that we can provide,” said Christensen. “So, we started using digital media platforms. My recruiters do things like Zoom calls with the schools, and we coordinate a lot of things through guidance counselors.”
An Army spokesman says the Las Vegas area has had the highest level of recruitment for the Department of Defense over the past two years.
Only 29% of applicants make the cut. The biggest disqualifier: obesity. Food allergies, certain piercings and health issues, like asthma, are also disqualifiers.
For those who do make the cut, there are opportunities like this.
Staff Sgt. Daniel Osorio says he initially started off as an 11 Bravo infantryman, and that he “asked them what it takes to become a Golden Knight, and I started working towards that.”
Osorio is now part of the team. He described the challenge of 2020 to us, saying, “So initially, it was shutdown just like everything else …. Then, as restrictions started to become, get lifted, we were able to get back into jumping, safely of course, you know, wearing face masks, practicing social distancing, and then we were able to start traveling more.”
Part of Osorio’s duties include taking students with him.
“The goal is to connect the army to the American public,” he explained.
On this November day, the team hosted educators, police and the media. We signed up, suited up and then paired with an army videographer.
The I-Team soon headed to the plane with Osorio for a ride two and a half miles up. We buckled in with him and jumped, free falling at speeds of 120 mph, with a view of Southern Nevada.
This was Osorio’s 3,017th jump and an unforgettable ride that the army hopes will reach future soldiers.
We want to say a special thanks to Osorio and the rest of the Golden Knights.
For more information on the elite demonstration team, please click here.