A show of force and capability from the United States Army
An Air and Sea show sounds cool but an Air and Sea show in Miami sounds even cooler, especially when the US Army plays the main role. A show of force and capability from the United States Army is not something that would go unnoticed. Early this year, we were asked to take part in the Hyundai Air and Sea show on Miami beach. It’s something we had the pleasure of doing last year and we had a lot of fun! We were quick to say yes to the invite again!
Rewind to the 24th of May, we were flown out to Miami international Airport and then put up in a hotel. After our room allocation, each with an awesome view towards the Miami South Beach, we received our performer wristbands and got told our do’s and don’ts. Then we had a quick brief on the next few days. The first timing the next day (Thursday) was 0730 at the Homestead Air Force Base to start a day’s training with the US Golden Knights in preparation for our display over the weekend. On arrival we had our kit checked and then we were split into our roles for the Airshow displays.
Pte Max Tork was going to be part of the team of flag jumpers to open the event both days. He would be jumping our 200sqft union jack flag to represent the Red Devils and our Country. This would involve Max jumping with other teams. He would be jumping into the show earlier than the rest of us, so he would stay on the ground and then help with the ground party when they arrive at the beach – the more the merrier.
The days training at Homestead Air Force Base involved our canopy formation team working with the US Golden Knights. They also did some team canopy formations, so they were ‘ready for anything’. Our team cameraman captured some amazing footage of both team. The other members, Cpl Shorthouse, LCpl Watson and LCpl Cuddy were to be involved in a missing man jump with members of the US Golden Knights and US Navy team the Leap frogs in memory of SFC Michael Ty Kettenhofen and Sgt Dean Walton, both of whom we lost within 12 months of each other, in Skydiving incidents.
Chain of smoke
We also had Cpl Richard Kingston jumping the chain of smoke. For those who haven’t seen this, it’s something our team Rigger headed up designing and making. To explain it simply, it is a specifically designed box of 6 Smoke that you wear around your waist. Once your canopy is open and you’re at a pre-determined height you then pull a nice bright yellow handle which release the 6 smokes below you on a long bit of ‘rope’ with a 10kg weight suspended at the bottom to help stabilise it all. Head to our Instagram page to see more pictures of this!
So, after a day’s training out of the Golden Knights plane for our roles in the display, we are ready. However, we made sure to get more jumps in than just our roles (as described) as things do and will quickly change. After our debrief, we headed back to the hotel to get some rest in after all our travelling as tomorrow (Friday) we have a practice demo into the arena we’ll be using over the weekend.
Friday comes and it’s another early rise for us to get to the airport from which we are taking off from. It’s a 30minute journey to get there and once we arrive, we each get our kit ready, this involves checking our parachute systems, a last minute battery check on altimeters and Go-Pros, prepping our smoke and getting the jump flags ready. Once we have done this we can chill out until about 30minutes prior to take off. Our Team Leader, Cpl Shorthouse then briefs the jumpers on the arena size, potential hazards and the current wind direction and strength, which all has to be relayed from the ground party.
It’s time to kit up and head towards the aircraft, we have a quick last minute dirt dive and then a safety brief from the US Golden Knight’s. Take off goes smoothly and the flight takes about 20minutes, however this is a much more comfortable flight than when we fly in the UK. The US Golden Knights have their own plane and are for bigger and faster than what the team is use to back in the UK. When we are nearly overhead, our minds turn to the display and start communicating with the ground party for live updates.
First jump onto Miami Beach
This may be a practice demo, but the arena is the arena we are going to be landing in for the all live demos, so there’s literally no difference. Albeit a few thousand people which adds to the pressure. We get out of the exit door in our jump order from 6000ft and deploy our canopy at a pre-determined height. 3500ft for those not doing CRW, and 5500ft for those doing CRW. The jump goes well and we all land safely in the arena all within 5metres of the cross.
Time to head back to the hotel and get ready for tonight’s social. Each night the Hyundai air and sea show host a social event for all the performers to get to meet each other and tonight was the first of three. We headed there as a team and started socialising with our American counterparts. There was certainly a range of occupations there, ranging from Skydivers, to F-35 pilots to Tank commanders. So, as you can imagine, there was a lot of banter amongst us all. Despite the differences in our humour, we all took to each other very well. Most of us have worked with our American counterparts in the past on numerous occasions, be it on operations, or on overseas exercises so it was a success. However, we could not stay long as we up early for our display on the Saturday morning.
Jumping from a sea plane
Our display on Saturday involved us jumping out of a sea plane owned by the American Military, something the team had not done before – we were very excited. Once overhead there was clear differences in the number of spectators from the day before. Nerves start to kick in and we complete our final checks with our kit and the ground party. On our final approach to the arena, we start to get in position. Green on, time to go. The jump goes well and we all land safely. Once we land and we have put our canopies in our vehicles, we then take a walk around to engage with the public and get lots of photos with those who ask. This can take us from 1 hour to 2 hours, this is the most important part our display to engage. After the event, we head back to the hotel to get ready for social number two. Sunday arrives and we are looking forward to our two displays today, the team display and then the missing man jump.
The jump goes well again and once we land, Cpl Shorthouse, LCpl Watson and LCpl Cuddy grab their canopies and run to the vehicles, they are getting blue lighted by the local police to the Airport, so they get there in time to get on the aircraft that they are jumping out of for their second display of the day. Once they arrive, they pack their canopies next to the plane on the hot tarmac and prep any other kit they require.
Missing man jump
Once we are overhead the three Red Devil jumpers make their way to the aircraft door as they are out first, creating what we call the ‘base’. They will leave the aircraft holding on to each other, creating a base for the other 7 jumpers to fly down to and grab. At 6000ft one of the US Golden Knights pops his smoke and then tracks away at 5000ft, leaving a gap in the formation for the missing man memorial jump. We all land safely in the windy conditions and this marks the end of our displays. That afternoon, the OC, Capt Child made a tribute to Col (Ret’d) Ed Gardener who sadly passed away on 27 May. Col Ed was a legend, he was the founder of the Red Devils back in 1964 and legacy still remains strong to this day.
We head to our final social evening and make sure to say thank you for the invite to our American friends.
Miami, it was a pleasure
The Red Devils hope to see you again in 2024!