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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: www.leapfest.com