Lower Richland County, SC (Paul Kirby) Lexington County Administrator Joe Mergo did something he has said he never thought he’d do Thursday morning. After a brief training session at the McEntire Air National Guard Base in lower Richland County, Mergo jumped out of a perfectly good airplane!
Mergo got the opportunity to jump with one team member of the elite US Army's Golden Knights precision parachute team in what’s called a tandem jump. This is a form of skydiving where a novice or student skydiver is connected through a harness to a tandem instructor. The experienced instructor guides the student through the whole jump from exiting the aircraft, through the freefall phase, to the opening and piloting of the canopy, and the actual landing.
Mergo was a tandem jumper at the 2017 81st Regional Support Command’s (RSC) Tandem Jump Camp. This event is intended to inform selected community leaders about the mission and capabilities of the U.S. Army Reserve. It also affords the leaders an opportunity to experience the thrill of executing a tandem parachute jump with the world-renowned U.S. Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights.
In speaking with Mergo before the jump, he said that jumping from an airplane had never been a big dream of his, but he felt that he ought to avail himself of the opportunity for what knowledge regarding our military he would gain from the experience. He also said that he felt as if it would be a fitting tribute to his grandfather for whom he was named. His grandfather flew in a bomber during World War II and died in that conflict.
After the jump, Mergo agreed that it really was exciting and a lot of fun to do the jump. His enthusiasm for the experience was only tempered by the fact that he would have to go home and let the two significant ladies in his life, his wife and his mother, know that he had taken such a risk. “If I make it back to the ground, then I’ll let them know I jumped because I don’t think either would agree it was a good idea if I had told them in advance,” Mergo said the afternoon before the jump. At that point, he was reminded that he was going to make it back to the ground, the important part was just what the landing would be like. To that he answered with a slight laugh, “Yes, I guess you have a point there."
Lexington School District One’s Superintendent Dr. Greg Little is scheduled to jump with the Golden Knights on Friday.