Ice Cube might have taken “XXX” to the next level, but Leapfest XXX took things even higher – and was much more interesting and exciting to watch.

In what you could call “The Olympics of Military Parachuting”, Leapfest 30 brought together over 60 teams from more than 20 US states and 9 foreign countries.  The schedule included a day of familiarization and pre-jump training, to acquaint the foreign participants with US jump procedures, 2 days of actual competition jumping, an awards dinner, and a day of Friendship jumps and the awarding of US jump wings to the foreign participants.

Members of the RI National Guard familiarize foreign paratroopers with U.S. Army jump procedures for the CH-47 Chinook helicopters from which they will jump. (Photo by: SFC W Michael Houk)

Leapfest was launched in 1982 by the Rhode Island Army National Guard’s detachment of the 19th Special Forces Group, and has been held by the Rhode Island Army National Guard every year since – except 1985, when extreme weather caused the event to be cancelled.  As a result, Leapfest is the largest, longest running, and most international military static-line parachuting event and competition.

Leapfest participants rehearse jump procedures prior to the day's events. (Photo by: SFC W Michael Houk)

I was privileged and honored to be approved as the first non-traditional, civilian media representative to be granted a pass to cover the event this year and I attended on the second, and last, day of the jump competition – Saturday the 4th of August.  As such, I had the opportunity to mingle with the teams as they prepared to jump, and again on the Drop Zone after they’d jumped, landed and raced to reach the target spot.  I also got to go aloft in the Blackhawk helicopter provided for media and VIPs to observe and photograph the jumps in progress over the DZ.

Staff Sergeant Nigel Brewin of 1 (NZ) Signal Regiment, The New Zealand Army, gets his JumpMaster Parachute Inspection after 'chuting up.

The teams consist of 4 jumpers (plus one alternate), and one team is dropped on each run over the Drop Zone – but even so the sky above that target can get a bit crowded and jumpers can end up getting far closer to each other than “the manual” allows.  It was a testament to the professionalism and skill of the jumpers that I didn’t see any mid-air entanglements in all the jumps I observed.  There were a couple of close calls though, and a couple of jumpers also suffered injuries from hard landings, due to “running with the wind” to get as close as possible to the target.

Jumpers on the DZ dash for the target as soon as they hit the ground.

The way the scoring works is that each individual jumper is timed on how long it takes them to reach the target (marked on the Drop Zone with blaze orange signal panels) from the moment they hit the ground.  The tactic therefore is to maneuver your steerable, round-canopy such that you land as close to the target in the first place.

When all 60+ teams had made their team total of 12 jumps and all of the times were tallied up the results were:

  • 1st Place: 3rd Battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment (“The Vandoos”) – Quebec, Canada
  • 2nd Place: Rigger Detachment, Defense Logistics Agency – New Cumberland, Pennsylvania
  • 3rd Place: US Army Advanced Airborne School – Fort Bragg, North Carolina
  • The individual with the best overall times was Captain Lance Jensen from the 404th Civil Affairs Battalion, New Jersey.

Congratulations to all the winners of Leapfest XXX – and especially to the Royal 22nd Regiment for their second win in the history of Leapfest!  Maple Leaf Up!!

When you think about it, its quite an accomplishment that an event of this scope and magnitude is hosted by the National Guard of the small state of Rhode Island, and not by the 82nd Airborne Division, 18th Airborne Corps, or US Special Operations Command.  So, congratulations also to the outstanding men and women who take organize and host this unique and exciting event – they deserve all of the recognition and respect we can give them.

Sergeant Megan Burmeister of the Rhode Island National Guard kept the jump lift manifests up-to-date and the event running smoothly.

For more details about the teams that took part in Leapfest XXX, as well as the full schedule of activities, and/or if you want to contact the organizers about next year’s event, please visit the official event website:

Photo Gallery:

"Hurry up and wait." The participants get some down-time until the ground fog to burned off and the cloud cover lifted.

The team from 11 Airmobile Brigade, The Royal Netherlands Army show off their team t-shirts.

The Kiwis 'chute up.

The team from the UK's Parachute Regiment Training Company 'chute up.

The Moroccan 1st Parachute Infantry Brigade team wait for their turn.

The Mexican Naval Infantry School team line up to go get their JumpMaster Parachute Inspection.

Little Groups of Paratroopers all lined up in Chalk Order and waiting for the command to border the aircraft.

Paras can, and will, sleep anywhere, anytime the opportunity presents itself. You never know when you will again…

The South African 44 Parachute Regiment Reserves team all rigged up and ready to wait.

One word – says it all.

Two members from the all-female team from the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command get 'chuted up.

Ready to go at last…

Its a short ride on one-way ticket, and you won't be landing with the aircraft…

"Stand up, hook up, shuffle to the door – jump right out and count to 4! If my main don't open wide, I've got a reserve by my side."

Knees in the breeze. "Lower jumper has the right-of-way, turn left to avoid collisions…"

"Turn into the wind and prepare to land…"

A British Para struggles to get his canopy under control while running for the target.

A Canadian Para strains against his inflated canopy to reach the center of the target and stop the clock.

An Italian paratrooper prepares to land.

A Canadian paratrooper runs with the wind to get closer to the target.

A South African paratrooper descends with a perfectly round canopy.

A British Para turns into the wind in preparation for landing.

A Fallschirmjaeger from the German Army's Luftlandebrigade 26 digs deep to reach the target, whilst a comrade relaxes in the background.

Clearing the DZ: Brits, Moroccans and Americans gather up their kit.

Moroccans and South Africans pause for a team friendship photo.

The famous "Slangvel" ('snake skin') jump smock of the South African paratroopers.

Two members of the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center team clears the DZ after their final jump.

Keeping tabs on it all – the complete board was way too wide to get in one shot!


This jumper was from New Zealand – in case you couldn't tell.

Mexican Naval Infantry.

German Parachute Infantry Battalion 261

German Army Airmobile Brigade 26, Special Operations Division

South African 44 Parachute Regiment

British Army Parachute Regiment Training Company

U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command

UK 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery – Commando qualified

Parachute Company, 3rd Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry

2nd Platone Avvoltoi – Italy

2nd Platone Avvoltoi – Italy (anybody know anything about this unit?)

Italian Navy San Marco Regiment Special Operations Company

Moroccan 1st Parachute Infantry Brigade


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9 Responses to Leapfest 30

  1. Can’t wait to see New Zealand’s new “mutli terrain” camo in use (in 2013) They hit it on the head with that, unlike the dopey Aussies with their waste of money Aussie-ized MultCam joke.

  2. dragonredone says:

    Special Operations Company is a company of the San Marco Regiment (Italian Navy Landing Forces).

  3. dragonredone says:

    The only man in active duty in the 2nd Platoon Vultures was that of Navy special operations company. Others members are of the reserve.

  4. Wolf says:

    ABOUT: 2nd Platone Avvoltoi – Italy (anybody know anything about this unit?)
    it’s not a military unit but a group of italian retired paratroopers and arborne enthusiasts who like to jump round canopies, military style for fun.

  5. Jumper#31 says:

    Thanks for covering this event and posting a GREAT story! I had a fantastic time at the event, and the winds were truly in my favor.

  6. Thor says:

    Awesome Photos, Great story. Thanks for spotlighting something that does not get enough press. Don’t know if I missed it in the article, but did they let you jump too?

  7. solomon says:

    Great pics and you have the WISDOM not to have a HUGE watermark that takes away from the pic…it still lets us know who took it but its not over the top. THANK YOU! (you wouldn’t believe how many people have marks as big as texas on their photos…some they don’t even take)