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What it’s like to jump out of a plane?

If you’re going to jump out of a plane, you might as well do it with the best of the best. At least that’s what I told myself as I pulled into the parking lot next to the hangar for the Army’s Golden Knights.

To call the Golden Knights merely a parachute team feels like an insult. They are the crème de la crème of Army parachutists. Their job, literally, is not only to jump out of planes regularly but to do so in global competitions, conducting intricate demonstrations with such extremely perfect execution that it almost seems other-worldly.

Last week while visiting Fort Bragg, North Carolina, I made my way roughly an hour from Fayetteville to Laurinburg driving along mostly country roads. The closer I got to the Golden Knights hangar, the more open fields I passed. As you might expect, the hangar is not surrounded by much. It was a beautiful clear day — ideal weather for jumping out of a perfectly good airplane.

I wouldn’t say I was overly anxious. I was reasonably anxious (and incredibly excited) given what I was there to do. I’d never gone skydiving before, though I had tried once in college; a few friends and I went into Dallas to skydive, but it was canceled the day of because of bad weather. If I was willing to trust a random company to ensure I didn’t fall to my death, I told myself, then jumping with the U.S. Army would be a breeze. Especially when you consider that the Army led the U.S. military’s development of airborne units ahead of World War II, paving the way for the service’s first airborne assault in November 1942, a year-and-a-half before the Normandy airborne landings.

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