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USSOCOM German liaison officers take part in record formation skydive
The challenge: 72 skydivers from an altitude of 5,000 meters exit from four aircraft, first building a joint formation and then making two changes. The skydivers call these formation changes, “sequences.”

By: By Mike Bottoms - 10/22/2015

  • German Lt. Cols. Wolfgang “Wolly” Beyer, (Left) Special Operations Liaison Officer, Headquarters USSOCOM J3-International, and Frank “Franky” Hoelzner, German Special Operations Forces Liaison Officer to U.S. Army Special Operations Command, enjoy the success of their formation record jump in Klatovy, Czech Republic, Aug. 14. Photo by Thomas Twardy.
  • The record-breaking skydiving team complete their fourth formation above Klatovy, Czech Republic, Aug. 14. Photo by Antje Grube.
The challenge: 72 skydivers from an altitude of 5,000 meters exit from four aircraft, first building a joint formation and then making two changes. The skydivers call these formation changes, “sequences.”

Among the jumpers are German Army Lt. Cols. Wolfgang Beyer and Frank Hoelzner. Both are liaison officers assigned to USSOCOM with Beyer working in USSOCOM’s J3-International Directorate and Hoelzner with U.S. Army Special Operations Command. Beyer and Hoelzner come from the German Army Special Operations Forces.

Both men have a passion for skydiving and have a combined total of more than 11, 000 jumps.

“Skydiving is, next to our careers, our lives,” said Beyer.

 “Record setting is not in our official core mission. We train for these record attempts during our free time,” said Hoelzner.

On Aug. 14, the team came together to attempt the record. The team consisted of military and civilian skydivers, with the youngest 21 years old, and the oldest 68.

Getting on the team is not easy.

“This is an invitational event only, and you must be qualified, because the organizers want to be sure the record is made,” Beyer said.

Much practice and preparation is also needed to pull off such a difficult feat.

“We do a lot of planning on the ground before you get on the airplane;” said Beyer. “It’s like giant operations planning, you have an assigned seat on the plane, a special order for the exit, a special order in descending, assigned separation groups, parachute openings at assigned altitudes. This all must be planned and practiced before attempting the record because we all want to do it safely.”


After all the planning and training, the 72-man team broke the old German record of 55 jumpers and two formations.

“We delivered a clean performance,” said Hoelzner.

The following day 71, skydivers – one less due to an injury – executed three formations during the freefall. The team held each new formation almost ten seconds.

Their final jump had a remarkable three sequences and four different formations.

“We really surpassed ourselves,” Beyer said. “Four formations is world class. No other nation in the world has done this.”

Passing on his passion for skydiving as liaison officer to SOCOM, Beyer has given out 376 German jump wings to U.S. personnel while serving as a jumpmaster on Macdill Air Force Base, Florida.

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