Leapfest International Airborne Competition
Hosted by the Rhode Island National Guard
by Maia Kennedy
"Leapfest is the largest, longest standing, international static line parachute training event and competition.
The purpose of the competition is to promote the camaraderie and Esprit de Corps of the Airborne Soldier through international competition. The competition is routinely attended by representatives from the Active Army, Army Reserve, Army National Guard, Marines, Navy, Air Force, and several international teams.
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."
I've been photographing Leapfest now for four years. At the end of each one I look forward to the next! Being able to photograph air to air and capture the paratroopers leaping from the helicopter is a one of a kind experience and always a thrill. The dropzone where the paratroopers land is full of excitement and action every which way, with soldiers in the air, landing with large parachutes, and running to the targets. I also enjoy capturing camaraderie and interactions before and after the jumps, soldiers just meeting and others seeing friends they only get to see once a year at this event. It's a special time and I'm happy to be there to capture it all.
This year, my contact for the event, CPT Rothermel (Rhode Island Natl. Guard), told me she had finished the Tough Ruck. Tough Ruck is another one of my favorite events of the year! Organized by Military Friends Foundation, the Ruck honors the memory of Fallen Service Members, Police, Firefighters and EMTs, while also raising funds to support military families in times of need. The Ruck is a 26.2 mile course. Active duty soldiers must wear their division's regulation uniform and all ruckers, military and civilian, must carry a Ruck sack from 15 to 35 lbs. These Rucks carry the names of Fallen comrades, often friends and relatives, written on ribbons. This Ruck is brutal and can take anywhere from 4 to 8 hours to complete, sometimes even longer. After completing the Ruck, each finisher is awarded the official Boston Marathon medal for that year. The Tough Ruck, like Leapfest, is also based on the camaraderie and support shared between participants, both on the course as well as the sidelines.
All my pictures from Tough Ruck 2014 thru 2109 are here. It would be great to see some familiar faces from Leapfest at next year's Tough Ruck 2020! #TR2020