By SFC Allan Baros
They jump from airplanes and free-fall for two miles, knifing through the air.
Using parachutes opened less than a mile from the ground, they aim for and hit targeted landing spots like daggers – like Black Daggers. Which is what they are.
Many have heard of the Golden Knights, the U.S. Army Parachute Team, which is based at Fort Bragg. But the post is also home to another elite parachute demonstration team – the Black Daggers from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
Formed in the mid ‘90s, the team is comprised of volunteers from throughout the Special Operations Command. Their military specialties include Special Forces, civil affairs, psychological operations, and signal and support.
The team nearly folded a few years ago as membership shrank under the pressure of automatic spending cuts.
But now it’s back and growing. The team, embraced by the Special Operations Command as a tool for community relations and recruiting, currently has 12 members and plans call for that number to double by the end of 2018.
The team can perform high-altitude, high-opening jumps but it specializes in HALO jumps – high-altitude, low-opening jumps. That’s a form of stealth insertion used to land troops and equipment behind enemy lines and was first conducted in combat during the Vietnam War.
The Black Daggers have a signature jump – two team members descend together with an American flag suspended between them while red smoke billows from canisters attached to their feet. Other teams use a single jumper when displaying the flag.
The team’s combat jump is also unique. In it, they jump from the plane at 12,500 feet, fall two miles at nearly 120 miles per hour, deploy their canopies at about 2,000 feet, then fly in formation until about 100 feet from the ground. They lower their military gear and land on target with pinpoint accuracy.
Crowds cheer their performances. The Black Daggers smile. Their job is done – until next time.