CHERRY POINT, NC (Cpl. Glen Santy) – Kicking off the 2014 Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point “Celebrate the Heritage” Air Show festivities two MCAS Cherry Point Marines completed a tandem skydive May 3, with the Black Daggers, the United States Army Special Operations Command parachute demonstration team.
The Marines, Cpl. Kyle Smith, a rescue diver with Marine Transport Squadron 1, and Cpl. Kevin Willis, an aircraft electronic countermeasures technician with Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 4, plunged from approximately 10,000 feet with a Black Dagger soldier strapped to their backs.
A tandem skydive requires a student and instructor being harnessed together and using the same parachute on the way to the ground.
“There’s a new skydiver born every tandem,” said Black Dagger Army Sgt. Jeff Inman.
Inman said that the jump went well and Willis was a great student reacting surprisingly well for his first time in the air.
Cpl. Smith was nominated because he was recognized as the Marine of the quarter for four quarters in a row, awarding him Marine of the Year, said Sgt. Maj. Michael Daley, sergeant major of VMR-1. He was also meritoriously promoted to corporal after being put on a meritorious corporal’s board for MCAS Cherry Point.
“I think it was incredible that they opened up the opportunity for Marines to do a tandem jump with the Army’s special jump team and it’s an incredible opportunity for sure,” said Daley. “Cpl Smith absolutely deserved to jump because of his tenacity and drive throughout the entire last year. He is the epitome of a Marine noncommissioned officer and continues to lead his junior Marines.”
Jumping out of the KC-130J, it was only a couple minutes before the parachutes were deployed and only a few minutes before they were back on the ground.
“I’m definitely glad I got to do this,” said Willis, still excited after the jump. “I really didn’t get nervous like I thought I would. I actually asked him like four times, ‘can we jump, can we jump, can we jump?’ It was one of the most exciting adrenaline rushes of my life.”
Willis was also meritoriously promoted to corporal and set himself apart in his squadron as well as at MCAS Cherry Point.
“Since joining this command Corporal Willis has consistently set an example for his peers to emulate, constantly displays a positive mental attitude and pushes the Marines around him to perform to the best of their abilities,” said Sgt. Maj. Miguel Ortega, sergeant major with VMAQ-4. “Corporal Willis is a truly inspirational Marine whose ability to seek self improvement and technical progression has earned him the total confidence and respect of his peers and superiors alike.”
The Black Daggers travel nationwide and perform at a variety of shows ranging from high school football games to this year’s air show. Their schedule can take the Daggers to anywhere from 30 to 60 different shows a year.
“Being able to travel and showing off our command is rewarding because you see the inspiration that you can give to people,” said Black Dagger Army Sgt. 1st Class Gordy Horvath, and the team’s leader.
Performing only one jump with the Marines, the Daggers went on to perform an additional four flawless jumps with for the 2012 Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point “Celebrate the Heritage” Air Show.