Black Daggers pierce the skies above Schofield Barracks

| July 7, 2017 | 0 Comments

Master Sgt. Travis Alfred, the team leader for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Parachute Demonstration Team, rides a CH-47 Chinook on his way to Weyand Field during the Fourth of July Spectacular, July 4, 2017. The team, also known as the Black Daggers, parachuted from the Chinook and landed on Weyand Field. The Fourth of July Spectacular was open to the public, included games, rides, entertainment and food. (U.S. Army photo by Kristen Wong, Oahu Publications)

A free-fall parachutist with the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Parachute Demonstration Team jumps from a CH-47 Chinook, Tuesday.

Kristen Wong
Contributing Writer
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Families and friends from the community, here, and around the island looked to the sky for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Parachute Demonstration Team’s first-ever Hawaii performance at the Fourth of July Spectacular.

Exiting a CH-47 Chinook, provided by 3rd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th Combat Avn. Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, seven members of the team, known also as the “Black Daggers,” filled the air with colorful smoke and unfurled an American flag banner, which was 1,000 feet long by 1,000 feet wide.

“We brought the United States Army Special Operations Command Parachute team, here to Schofield Barracks for the Fourth of July Spectacular to assist us in marketing and public relations for the Special Operations community,” said Sgt. 1st Class Shelby Bixler, the noncommissioned officer in charge of U.S. Army Special Operations Recruiting Hawaii.

“These jumpers come from a Special Forces background,” he explained. “They’re rangers, Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations. They perform all over the nation as a public affairs asset to recruiting.”

This year, the team has as many as 50 shows nationwide, and could add more. The team jumps from various types of aircraft, depending on what is available at each venue, such as C-17s, a Cessna and fixed or rotary wing aircraft.

“Our job is to be goodwill ambassadors and interact with the populous,” said Staff Sgt. Sean O’Toole, the parachute rigger for the Black Daggers. “It’s our joy just to interact with everybody.”

The Black Daggers pose with members of 3rd Bn., 25th Avn. Regt., 25th CAB, 25th ID, in front of a CH-47 Chinook, Tuesday.

Target practice
O’Toole has been with the team since last December. For the Hilo, Hawaii, native, the best aspect of being a Black Dagger is the crowd. The free-fall parachutists, who use rectangular ram-air parachutes, landed in a designated area that was 100 feet long by 100 feet wide among the crowd.

“I absolutely love interacting with the crowd,” O’Toole said. “You jump, you land, you can hear kids cheering for you, you can see smiles on people’s faces. (You) shake the hands of veterans; they thank you for their service. I get to thank them for their service because they’ve paved the way for us.”

The Black Daggers are based out of Fort Bragg, in North Carolina. There are little less than a dozen on the team, which is made up of USASOC Soldiers. The Black Daggers perform for military and civilian audiences.

Weather permitting, O’Toole said, the team can jump from as high as 10,000 feet. He described 120 miles per hour as the optimum speed for the parachutists. In ideal conditions, O’Toole said the team conducts a three-tiered performance, with jumpers opening their parachutes at different heights.

They must perform a minimum of 200 jumps to be a demonstrator for the team. Some performances, such as the one here at Schofield, have a prerequisite of 500 jumps.

The team regularly trains during the winter for a month, 12 hours a day, five to six days a week. Additional training is conducted in the time available between each performance.

Members of the Black Daggers unit prepare for their jump.

One of the challenges, O’Toole said, is that the Black Daggers face constant travel.

“It’s a very busy (operation) tempo,” he said. “It’s hard to take care of home life, but it’s still my pleasure to be here.”

Master Sgt. Travis Alfred, the Black Daggers’ team leader, said he was grateful to the 25th ID for their efforts, as well as the local Special Operations recruiting office for the invitation to perform here.

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Category: Observances

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