UNITED STATES AIR FORCE ACADEMY — In just seconds, the U.S. Air Force Academy Wings of Blue parachute team broke records with a six-person jump at the U.S. Parachute Association Collegiate National Championships. It also earned them a gold medal. Watch the winning 6-way jump below.
"We broke the record in the event called six-way speed," said USAFA Cadet 1st Class Keane Singleton. "It's an event where six people unlinked exit the plane and have to get back together as fast as they can. My team did it in about seven-and-a-half seconds."
Singleton and his competition team spent years getting ready for that moment.
"It was insane what we did," Singleton said. "We trained hundreds of skydives before that so we were very well prepared."
The team got a gold medal on their four-way jump, too, beating West Point. Watch the winning four-way jump below.
"That was our last competition together, very bittersweet," said Cadet 1st Class Braeden Swanson. "We wanted to show up and show what we had out there and inspire our next generation of juniors in the Wings of Green."
Swanson and the team started as members of theWings of Green.
"Every summer we get 250 applicants to be on the Wings of Green and from those Wings of Green members they take roughly 25-27 members," said Singleton.
If all goes well, they earn a spot on the Wings of Blue. Their main mission is to teach new cadets how to do a freefall jump on their own in a class known as Airmanship 490 or AM-490.
"It's been some of my greatest leadership moments being able to work with some of those students who are terrified to do it and watch them stand in the door and believe in themselves," Swanson said.
Last week they also taught the astronauts from the SpaceX Polaris Dawn crew how to jump for the first time, too.
"Incredible," said astronaut Anna Menon as she landed from her jump. "The craziest emotions ever. So, so beautiful up there. Such a rush. They're amazing these are some of the best instructors I've ever met. I'm so grateful."
"The first time we saw (the Polaris Dawn crew) we knew their status, we knew what they were about to do and I’m like, 'Wow I’m a 22-year-old cadet about to teach guys that are 30 to nearly 50 years old that are about to go to space in a few months'," Singleton said.
Their coach, Air Force Lt. Col Jarrod Aranda, says when they choose cadets for the Wings of Blue, they look at how they work as a team members first. Aranda is a 2003 graduate of the Academy and a former member of the Wings of Blue. He says the team trains six days a week. He says getting one of 24 spots on the competition team is not easy.
"We look at your physical performance average, we look at your grade point average, we look at your military performance average, and then we just look, are you a good person," he said. "Do you care about other people, are you going to develop future officers better, are you going to care for 20 individuals on an airplane and make sure they’re safe."
And hopefully having some fun on the way down, too.
"You just keep moving through the dive and try to smile at each other occasionally, just remember why were there," Swanson said. "At the end of the dive we try to wave goodbye before we all turn away and try to get away from each other before we deploy."
"You stand in the door there with 100 mile per hour wind in your face and they tell you to 'Go' and you let go and it's the most surreal blissful feeling you'll ever feel in your life," Singleton said.
The public is welcome to visit the Academy to view routine Wings of Blue and AM-490 training jumps. The best viewing is located at the Thunderbird Outlook typically Monday-Saturday between 7 a.m. - 3 p.m. To view Academy public access instructions.
Check out photos from behind the scenes of this story here.
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