CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Mayor Kim McMillan, along with a number of community leaders, accepted an invitation to parachute from a military aircraft with the Golden Knights, the official aerial parachute demonstration team for the U.S. Army.
The team makes about a dozen stops a year like the one this week at Clarksville Regional Airport, conducting approximately 900 tandem jumps. This is the first time in 13 years the Golden Knights have visited Clarksville.
Mayor McMillan spent several hours with the Golden Nights on Thursday, waiting for clouds to clear enough to allow a safe jump. Her parachute partner was SFC Noah Watts, an upbeat, reassuring and totally experienced guide.
On Friday morning, Mayor McMillan sat for a quick interview about her jump, and was still glowing with energy and excitement inspired by her time in the sky.
Why did you jump out of safe, secure, perfectly operating airplane?
McMillan: First, thanks to our wonderful relationship with Fort Campbell and the U.S. Army, I had the good fortune to get invited to do something really special. I had previously done a tandem jump with a private parachute service. But this opportunity to jump with the elite, world renowned Army parachute team was a once in a lifetime opportunity. And believe me, the Golden Nights are the cream of the crop. They know how to put you at ease and you’re able to relax and take it all in.
Tell me about the experience.
McMillan: Words can’t describe the exhilaration and speed of the free fall, and then gently floating to earth under a silken canopy. I got a chance to see the city of Clarksville from 13,000 feet. It made me realize anew what a beautiful, phenomenal place this is.
What did you learn about America’s soldiers?
McMillan: It was great that I got to spend several hours with these elite soldiers. While we were waiting, we just talked, and I got to hear the personal stories of nearly all of the Golden Knights team members. Each one spoke eloquently about their dedication to the Golden Knights, the Army, and their duty to protect Americans. You could see and feel the love they had for their colleagues and their special mission.
What did you learn about yourself from this experience?
McMillan: I think I rediscovered that it’s good to get out of your comfort zone, be a little more brave, and be open to new experiences. After the jump, I woke up today in a really great mood, so maybe the sheer excitement of the jump gave me a jolt of energy. Doing something new and dramatic, something unique and really fun, just gives you a better outlook.
How would lessons learned jumping out of an airplane apply to government and politics?
McMillan: It struck me how taking chances, taking risks, has a special kind of payoff. You get outside your routine and see and feel new things. Also, jumping in tandem shows you a special kind of teamwork. So it struck me how when you work together, and put your faith and trust in other people’s special skills, you can accomplish great things.