2016 Annual Leapfest Competition
2016 Annual Leapfest Competition
1 to 9 August 2016
I attended the annual Leapfest competition, held at the University of Rhode Island, on 6 August 2016. This was my 3rd time attending, and is such a first class event.
For the background and description of the event – from the Leapfest website:
“Leapfest is the largest, longest standing, international static line parachute training event and competition.
Each team consists of 5 participants: 4 jumpers and 1 alternate jumper. Jumpers exit from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter at an altitude of 1500 feet (457 meters) using an MC-6 static line, steerable, parabolic parachute.
Participants aim to land as close as possible to a marked, designated area within the landing zone. Upon landing and completing a PLF (parachute landing fall), participants are timed by qualified judges until they reach the designated area.
This is both an individual and team event. Each jumper must complete 2 jumps to be qualified for the individual award, and each team must complete 8 jumps in total to be qualified for the team award.
In addition, we will be hosting a foreign jump exchange followed by a foreign jump wings pinning ceremony”
1- Detachment 2, 165th Quartermaster Company
2- Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 160th SOAR
3- Georgia National Guard Joint Team
1- SSG Dean DeAngelo, Georgia National Guard
2- SGT 2ND Juan Carlos Ruiz, ODC Mexico (ABN)
3- SFC Rober Hughey, 160th SOAR
Viewing of the event is open to the public, at both the pickup zone (PZ) for the parachutists at a large field next to the University of RI, and drop zone (DZ) in a large farming field behind an elementary school. For an aerial view of the area, please click here.
The layout and location changed slightly this year, moving to another field just to the left where it was held in 2015.
The parachutists are carried in 4 CH-47F Chinook helicopters that were provided by 2 National Guard units (same units as 2015):
Pennsylvania Army National Guard from Fort Indiantown Gap
New York Army National Guard from Rochester
The Rhode Island National Guard provided the UH-60A Blackhawks that carried media and a medical aircraft.
The participating teams were:
Associazione Nazionale Paracadutisti d’Italia Italy
811 Airmobile Brigade (AASLT) Royal Netherlands Army
12 (Minden) Air Assault Battery, 12 Regiment Royal Artillery United Kingdom
13th Air Assault Support Regiment, RLC United Kingdom
165 Air Support Operations Squadron Georgia USA
216 (Parachute) Signal Squadron, 16 (Air Assault) Brigade United Kingdom
HQ 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines United Kingdom
Delta Company/2nd Battalion – 160th SOAR(A) Kentucky USA
HHC 4/160TH SOAR (A) (A) Georgia USA
Detachment 2 165th Quartermaster Company Nebraska USA
144 Parachute Medical Squadron United Kingdom
3rd Battalion Royal 22nd Regiment Canada
C COMPANY, LRS 1-297TH CAV Alaska USA
Charlie Company 1-143rd Airborne Rhode Island USA
C Company 1-134 Cavalry (LRS Detachment) Nebraska USA
U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development & Engineering Center Massachusetts USA
Special Operations Detachment (SOD) – NATO Maryland USA
Special Operations Detachment (SOD) – Global Rhode Island USA
Special Operations Detachment (SOD) – Korea Colorado USA
982nd Combat Camera Company (Airborne) Georgia USA
95th Civil Affairs Brigade Fort Bragg USA
Special Forces Brigade 44 PARACHUTE REGIMENT (RES) South Africa
3rd PARACHUTE BATTALION, A Coy South Africa
3rd PARACHUTE BATTALION, B Coy South Africa
43rd Airborne Battalion Czech Republic
Luftlande Brigade 1 SAARLAND
CI/TAP/1 BIP Morocco
19th SFG (A) GSB Utah USA
La Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional(SEDENA), Mexico
7 Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery United Kingdom
United States Army Special Operations Command (Airborne) FT.Bragg USA
14th Air Support Operations Squadron Pope Field USA
I arrived early, at 0700, and proceeded to walk by the CH-47s and get photos with the rising sun and crews prepping the aircraft. With the potential for bad weather later in the day, the organizers cancelled the 0800 opening ceremony in order to get right to the flying and jumping. The conditions were very dry due to the lack of rain this summer, and they wet down the fields to reduce the dust-ups. However, the amount of dust was extremely high, and coated everything from the equipment to me and my camera gear. It did make for some dramatic photos though.
I photographed the many different things happening at the PZ, and at around 0900, my scheduled UH-60 flight was about to begin. The wind was brisk and there was a bit of a delay launching. This was my 4th UH-60 flight with the Rhode Island National Guard, and they are always first-class and receptive to helping photographers get photos.
We witnessed 4 jumps by the Chinook we were shadowing, and the pilots were doing their best to get us aligned for good shots.
Upon returning, I took some more photos of the PZ with the help of other public affairs staff. I then went over to the drop zone (DZ), and got there right at the same time a group was being escorted closer to the action. With the wind still fairly strong, the jumpers were coming down and drifting in many different paths, and one has to keep their head on a swivel in order not to have a jumper land on you. While out there, I was chatting with a German Army photographer – mostly about his sightseeing in the US. That is one of the great features of Leapfest – the international aspect.
There were a few injuries while we were out there, and in fact, one was so severe, they halted the jumping, cleared the field, and rapidly called in a medivac Blackhawk to rush the injured jumper to a hospital. That was quite the sight to see.
I want to pass very special thanks to Lt. Incze and Public Affairs staff, the Rhode Island National Guard, crew of my UH-60 flight, the CH-47 crews and the Leapfest participants and organizers. As usual, everyone I encountered was helpful, friendly and had safety as top-of-mind. Without these folks, I would not be able to get the photos I was looking for within a safe environment.