By Nick Barth Gear writer Published Jul 23, 2015 at 12:57 PM

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As part of the Milwaukee Air & Water Show this weekend, the Army Golden Knights reached out with an opportunity to perform a tandem skydive as a media contact. I jumped at the chance to fulfill a lifelong item on my bucket list, but what have I gotten myself into? I talked to Shelby Bixler of the Golden Knights to find out more about who I'm jumping with, how it works, and what I need to know ahead of time.

The Golden Knights are the Army's parachute demonstration group and is made up of two teams: Black and Gold. Each travels the country throughout the year, skydiving at air shows, sports games, and other events in order to increase awareness and draw interest in the Army's recruitment efforts. After landing, they interact with the crowd answering questions, taking pictures, and demonstrating how to repack their parachute. They're not just a recruitment tool, however.

As part of the Army Accessions Support Brigade, they also participate in testing new technology and techniques in order to push the art and science of skydiving further. They also boast a men's 8-way and women's 4-way competition team as well as a new vertical formation team, which competes by completing geometric shapes while freefalling headfirst.

Here in Milwaukee, we'll get to see the 12-member Gold Team in action, which includes Wisconsin native Mike Koch. They're sure to put on a great show, but what I'm most interested in is the tandem team I'll be jumping with. Scheduled this weekend are Sgt. First Class Noah Watts and Sgt. First Class Joe Jones. One will serve as my tandem instructor and partner, the other as videographer.

When I asked about using the office GoPro on the jump, Shelby told me "Oh, you'll be taken care of very much so by our tandem team. You're going to have your own personal videographer, you're gonna have photos, video; everything. You're going to get the red carpet treatment from the Golden Knights, I promise you that." Great news for anyone looking to see a man freak out at 120 miles per hour.

One hundred and twenty miles per hour! That's how fast I'll be going during the freefall portion of the belly-to-earth jump from a height of about 13,000 feet – almost two-and-a-half miles up! Luckily for me, one of the Army's elite freefall parachutists will literally have my back. On the road for 275 days a year, these highly-trained men and women clearly know what they're doing.

For the Golden Knights, exiting a plane at that height is like making a sandwich to you or me. During their three-month training period early in each year, members jump six to 10 times a day. They jump, pack their chute, get on a bus back to the plane, and jump again day long. After performing about 200 jumps each during that period, they begin the demonstration season: mostly air shows and baseball games throughout the summer, then football games in the fall. Recently, the Gold team took Rex Ryan for a tandem jump, and the Black team jumped into Yankee Stadium last weekend. Rarified company, indeed.

Sunday, the final day of the Milwaukee Air & Water Show, is my day. I'm to arrive at the hangar at 9 a.m. with photographer Sarah Laux, who's coming along to document the morning and my ascent. I'll meet my instructor, go through a tandem class and training, and take off in the Golden Knights' C-31 Friendship aircraft.

Though the doors are closed and cabin pressurized during travel, the doors will be wide open for our ascent. When we reach 13,500 feet, the instructor will survey the conditions and decide whether to circle back at a lower altitude, wait conditions out, or (hopefully) tell me it's go time! If that's the case, I'll go to the doors, look down at Milwaukee 2.5 miles away, and forget absolutely everything they've taught me.

"Most of the stuff they tell you, the videos you see, it may go in one ear and out the other because you think to yourself I'm about to exit a plane from 13,000 feet." Should this (inevitably) happen, Shelby told me to remember three things above all: "arch, relax and have fun."'s senior developer Nick Barth has been a part of the team since 2008. After an 18-month stint in Portland, he returned to his hometown with a new love of food trucks, bike life, and simple and effective gadgetry. The self-proclaimed gear geek and denim addict now presents OnMilwaukee's #wewant series weekend mornings on WISN-12.