by Brian Giboney
Jennifer Davidson, D-30287, is a member of the U.S. Army Golden Knights 8-Way Formation Skydiving Team. Until recently, she was a member of GKF4, which in 2012 was the first all-female team to medal in open FS at a USPA Nationals and in 2016 took gold in women’s 4-way FS at the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale World Championships. A versatile jumper, Davidson was also on the 2010 FAI Women’s World Record for Largest Head-Down Formation Skydive. The Army recently promoted her to master sergeant.
Birthplace: Portsmouth, Iowa
Marital Status: Married to Matt Davidson
Children: 5-year-old stepdaughter, Lauren
Pets: A border collie named Hughes
Occupation: Competitive skydiver on the U.S. Army Parachute Team
Education: B.A. in international studies from the University of Iowa, B.S. in software programming from Colorado Technical University and working on an M.A. in humanities from American Military University
Pet Peeves: Body shaming in all its forms
Pre-Jump Superstitions: None, really. I generally like to have my leg and chest straps tightened and stowed and my booties on before getting in the plane so that I’m not rushed if there isn’t room to do it in the plane.
Life Philosophy: Dream big, then go for it
Jump Philosophy: Never stop learning; you can always get better.
Team Name: Golden Knights 8-Way Formation Skydiving Team
Sponsor: U.S. Army
Container: Sun Path Javelin Odyssey
Main Canopy: Performance Designs Katana 97
Reserve Canopy: Performance Designs Optimum 126
AAD: Advanced Aerospace Designs Vigil II
Disciplines: As of this year, mostly 8-way FS; 4-way on occasion
Home Drop Zone: Laurinburg-Maxton [a military club in North Carolina] and Skydive Paraclete XP in Raeford, North Carolina
Year of First Jump: April 2007
Licenses and Ratings: A-51951, B-31382, D-30287; Coach and PRO Championships, Medals and Records:
FAI World Championships—gold in women's 4-way in 2016; World Air Games—gold in women's 4-way in 2015; FAI Indoor Skydiving World Championships—gold in women's 4-way in 2015; FAI World Championships—silver in women's 4-way in 2014 and 2012; FAI World Cup—gold in women's 4-way in 2012, silver in 2013; Military World Championships—gold in women's 4-way in 2015, 2014 and 2011; USPA Nationals—bronze in 4-way in 2012-2016; FAI Women’s World Record for Largest Head-Down Formation Skydive in 2010
Total Number of Jumps: 5,200 FS: 3,500 Demos: 700
Freefly: 500 Accuracy: 250 CF: 150 Camera: 100
Tandems: 20 Wingsuit: Two Balloon: One
BASE: None yet Other: 350
Largest completed formation: 58-way during the head-down California state record in 2010
Total Number of Cutaways: Two, one of which was a canopy formation wrap
Most people don't know this about me:
I originally said “no” to going to the 4-way [FS] team because I wanted to focus on VFS.
Of all your skydives, does one stand out most?
Doing a demo and landing next to the Statue of Liberty in 2010.
Who has been your skydiving mentor?
I’ve had so many people to look up to! I would say one of my first mentors was Sandy Grillet. I was interested in competing from the beginning, and there wasn’t a lot of opportunity in Iowa, where I started. He ran the NPSL [Northern Plains Skydiving League] meets there and helped me find my first rookie team.
What are your future skydiving goals?
My current goal is a gold in 8-way at the world meet. My long-term dream goal would be to have a 4-way FS/VFS team.
What safety item do you think is most important or most often neglected?
Pin checks are free and easy. Why not do them?
Do you have any suggestions for students?
If you don’t understand something, ask!
If you could do a fantasy 2-way with anybody, whom would it be with and where would it take place?
Probably with my dad. He’s done a couple tandems, but it’d be awesome to do a 2-way with him in his own rig into a hometown baseball game.
Were you a hard child to raise?
Nope! My parents had it pretty easy with me.
If you could make everyone do something to make earth a better place, what would it be?
Realize that you can disagree with someone without hating or judging them.
What kind of skydiving student were you?
Anyone that’s seen the video of my first jump can tell you: a total flailer. I managed to lose both my instructors and go into a tracking barrel roll. Needless to say, I had to repeat level one.
Is there one jump you would like to do again?
One of my tandems before becoming a skydiver was in New Zealand. If I could do it now, I would appreciate the view more.
What do you consider your most significant life achievement?
Marrying my best friend.
Do you have any suggestions for USPA?
More structure for competence in different areas of jumping, similar to the IBA [International Bodyflight Association, which regulates wind tunnel competitions].
What has been your best skydiving moment?
Competing in 4-way at Nationals with my husband last year.
What’s the best thing about being a Golden Knight?
Being a part of a team with a rich legacy. The team is like family, and I know my teammates have my back. Having the opportunity to train and compete at high-level competitions with friends from all over the world. And being an example to the American public, showing what can be accomplished with hard work and perseverance.
What was it like becoming the first all-female team to medal at the USPA Nationals?
The support that we got from the skydiving community was amazing. To achieve it with close friends after a lot of hard work made it all worth it.
How did it feel to take home gold in women’s 4-way at the 2016 FAI World Championships?
We’d been working for six years to win a world meet. We had to overcome a lot that year just to be able to compete, but I think it made the celebration that much sweeter.
Your husband, Matt, is also a Golden Knight. What do the other Knights think of that?
I think people were worried about us working together when we first got together, but there haven’t been any issues. Working together is probably not something that would work for every couple, but it works for us.
Explain Jen Davidson in five words or fewer:
Motivated, empathetic, adventurous, resilient, curious.