Originally created 08/20/00

Golden Knights highlight blast



As The Star-Spangled Banner played in the background, Sgt. 1st Class Mark Hollabaugh rode on the wind beneath his black-and-gold Army parachute.

With streams of red smoke billowing from canisters on his boots the Golden Knight, bearing the American flag, made his 1,920th and 1,921st jumps Saturday in the parking lot next to the National Science Center's Fort Discovery.

Sgt. 1st Class Hollabaugh removed his parachute and donned a red beret as he took the microphone and narrated the rest of the squad's jump.

The rest of the group landed with precision in the marked area.

The Golden Knights, the Army's parachute team, were the special guests Saturday at the science center's Back to School Blast.

"We are delighted to have the Army's Golden Knights," said Phyllis Hendry, president of Fort Discovery, which is a partnership between the Army and the private sector. "They are such wonderful examples and good role models."

The Knights appeared at April's Skyfest 2000 air show and toured the science center then.

"That's how we wound up jumping here," said Sgt. 1st Class Johnny Mulford, the Knights' team leader, who has 3,850 jumps to his credit. "We visited here, and we were really impressed."

In addition to two jumping demonstrations, the Knights went inside Fort Discovery and explained to the crowds some of the science behind skydiving. They fielded questions and signed autographs.

"They've gone way beyond the call of duty," Ms. Hendry said. "They are so accessible to the children."

Luci Collins brought her two younger sisters, Savannah and Emma, to the science center just to see the Knights. The three have seen the Knights at other air shows.

"They are fan-friendly," said 15-year-old Savannah, who had a picture she was hoping to get autographed. "They come up and talk to you like they know you."

The Golden Knights weren't the only Army connection at the event.

Those attending could scale a 24-foot rock wall emblazoned with the seven Army values. The wall is a recruiting tool.

Also, Fort Gordon's Army rock band, Ground Zero, played to the crowd.

"We are going to get the Golden Knights to come back," said Ms. Hendry, who added she hoped the Back to School Blast would become an annual event.

Reach Charmain Z. Brackett at (803) 441-6927.