Jumping from aircraft a dream come true for Warrant Officer
When Mike Dwyer was a lad he was like other kids who watched airplanes and played with toy soldiers and dreamed a bit about jumping out of aircraft — but that dream always seemed too far away.
Today, Warrant Officer Dwyer is second in command of Canada’s elite parachute team, The SkyHawks, and he will be one of the team members who will perform before the crowd at the Highway to Heroes car show, concert and air demonstration on Sunday, July 15 at 15 Wing.
It has been several years since the Canadian Armed Forces team appeared in the sky over Moose Jaw so members are looking forward to performing before the local crowd. “We’re excited about coming to Moose Jaw,” Dwyer said. “The Snowbirds (431 Air Demonstration Squadron) are always bragging about Moose Jaw,” he said, noting the SkyHawks want to see what the community is all about.
The Moose Jaw show will feature 11 demonstrators plus three other crew members. Members come from the Canadian Army, Navy and Air Force and this year there is one female member, Leading Seaman Jennifer MacKinnon of Saint John, N.B. Some members are relative newcomers, while others have more than 1,000 jumps. They come from a variety of backgrounds and have varied military experiences.
The SkyHawks team was established in 1971 and has performed in front of more than 75 million spectators around the world under the signature Canadian flag parachutes.
Dwyer said the team will do some training jumps to become familiar with the Moose Jaw drop zone. After the team finishes the car show performance, members will mingle with the crowd and provide an opportunity for spectators to help repack a parachute. Members will also pose for photographs and sign autographs. Because of the visual impact of the SkyHawks’ performance, weather is always a factor. Dwyer said a wind speed of 18 knots (33 kph) is the maximum permissible. And a low cloud cover would kill the visual effect of the performance.
This year the team has 25 shows in its schedule, including two in the United States: one already finished in Michigan and one planned in Kentucky.
Dwyer joined the military in 1998 with the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment in Petawawa, Ont. He completed his basic parachutist course in 1999 and joined the para company the same year, holding various roles from machine gunner to platoon warrant officer. In 14 years with 3RCR he was deployed to Bosnia and Afghanistan twice. He considers his time in Afghanistan as “a tremendous experience.” One of his goals was to “bring my team home” and he did, safely. Dwyer was posted to the Canadian Army Advanced Warefare Center in Trenton in 2012. He holds qualifications as a static line round and military square parachute instructor and has completed his tandem instructor qualification.
As the second in command of the SkyHawks, he supports the team commander with administration and planning for the team and looks after the safe and efficient performance of the team.
He describes the opportunity to perform and travel with the SkyHawks and meeting the people as “a job I never thought I would have.”
Gates to the Highway to Heroes Car Show, Concert and Air Demonstration open at 9 a.m. for show car exhibitors. The day’s program begins at 11 a.m. Air Demonstrations with the SkyHawks, Snowbirds and NFTC assets take place between 2-4 p.m.
The Snowbirds Squadron is about half-way through the team’s 48th season and for the first time in many years, is performing a full public show in Moose Jaw. This year’s theme is A Tradition of Military Excellence. Admission is $10 for adults (13 years and up); $5 for children 6-12 years; and free for pre-school aged.
CAF SkyHawks coming to Moose Jaw CAF Photo by Clint Clauson.jpg