By Jeffrey Sisto, RDECOMAugust 14, 2014
WEST KINGSTON, R.I. (Aug. 14, 2014) -- Steady rain didn't stop hundreds of paratroopers from jumping at this year's Leapfest, the 31st annual international parachute training and competition event sponsored by the Rhode Island National Guard and held at the University of Rhode Island Aug. 2.
Leapfest is the largest and longest-standing, international static line parachute-training event, in which paratroopers from around the world compete in both individual and team times.
While last year's event was cancelled due to the U.S. federal government sequestration, the 2014 competition returned to form, featuring approximately 50 U.S. and international parachute teams, including Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Republic of South Africa and the United Kingdom.
"There were a lot more moving pieces to the event this year," said Maj. William Tuttle, assistant operations officer for the 56th Troop Command, RING, the primary unit responsible for planning and executing Leapfest. "As you're planning this type of operation, it is truly a collective effort with all our brigade-level staff to piece it all together."
This year's competition also marked the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Normandy invasion, when allied forces invaded German-occupied France by air and sea, during World War II. Organizers held a wreath-laying ceremony to honor the sacrifices of all allied paratroopers and hosted a distinguished guest, World War II paratrooper and 82nd Airborne Division veteran Robert "Ozzie" Osborne.
Like the planners of D-Day 70 years ago, Leapfest organizers had to decide whether or not to conduct the event in the face of adverse weather conditions.
"The three things we look at when deciding a jump are visibility, cloud ceiling and wind," said Tuttle. "We can jump in the rain. We have no problem with that. As long as we have those other three factors identified working with us, we can jump. So we made the decision to go forward."
After exiting a CH-47 Chinook helicopter at an altitude of 1,500 feet, jumpers try to land as close as possible to a marked, designated area within the landing zone, where they are timed by judges until they reach the target.
Members of the U.S. Army Natick Parachute Team, who won the competition in 2009, competed with two teams this year, fielding both military and civilian teams.
Staff Sgt. Jon Weymouth, a parachute rigger with the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center's Aerial Delivery Directorate, placed among the top four Americans and seventh overall individually, with a total jump time of 4 minutes, 25 seconds.
The competition also showcased the new MC-6, a static-line deployed, steerable, round parachute, developed in conjunction with NSRDEC's Aerial Delivery Directorate.
The Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers.
RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness -- technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment -- to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.