NATICK, Mass. -- Paratroopers from the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center, or DEVCOM SC, recently participated in Leapfest, the International Military Parachute Competition conducted annually by the Rhode Island National Guard’s 56th Troop Command on behalf of the National Guard Bureau. The event focuses on training and maintaining proficiency in static line airborne operations, promoting interoperability, and fostering esprit de corps across the U.S. and international military airborne community.
DEVCOM Soldier Center entered two teams for Leapfest 2023 — Team 49, consisting of Col. Alexander Babington, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Terry Wright, Staff Sgt. Vance Yazzie, and Army civilian employee and retired Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 John Mahon; and Team 57, consisting of Army civilian employees David Accetta, Jennifer Hunt, Richard Landry, and William Millette.
Mahon, a senior airdrop equipment specialist with Soldier Center for 23 years after serving nearly 31 years as a U.S. Army paratrooper, is no stranger to Leapfest.
“I don’t have an exact count, but I believe I have jumped in more than 20 Leapfest competitions, dating back to 1984,” said Mahon. “Being on jump status for more than 54 years, this is what I dreamed of from my teen years.”
Paratroopers from Armenia, Canada, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, Greece, Germany, Egypt, Italy, the Netherlands, and Portugal, along with 28 teams from the United States military, participated in the annual training event and competition.
Jumping as a team, each paratrooper made three jumps out of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter at 1,500 feet, trying to land as close as possible to one of four bright orange X’s marked on the drop zone.
For Wright, DEVCOM Soldier Center's new aerial delivery research and development officer, Leapfest was both practical and rewarding.
"As an Airdrop Systems Technician (Military Occupational Specialty 921A) I must maintain jump currency to perform my duties," said Wright. "Being able to participate in Leapfest for the first time was an honor, as the esprit de corps it brings spans throughout DoD and our Allied partners, creating a stronger bond in the airborne community.”
Leapfest is the largest, longest-running international military static-line parachute competition in the world, having first been held in 1982. Using an MC-6 static line, steerable, parabolic parachute, each jumper exits the aircraft, and the static line deploys the parachute within six seconds. The jumpers then must steer their canopy to one of the targets on the drop zone, where judges time how long it takes them to reach the X. Timing starts when they complete a proper parachute landing fall and stops when they touch the X.
“I was impressed by the highly competitive, competent, and extremely professional international paratroopers that participated in this year’s Leapfest competition,” said Babington, DEVCOM Soldier Center’s military deputy, who jumped for the center’s military team. “US Army paratroopers, Soldiers and airmen from the special operations community, and government civilians all made impressive jumps.”
DEVCOM Soldier Center’s Aerial Delivery Division is responsible for developing systems for the aerial delivery of cargo and personnel to the battlefield using science, technology, and engineering solutions.
To develop both static line and Military Free Fall personnel parachutes systems and support equipment, several of Soldier Center’s military and civilian personnel are on active jump status. This maintains their proficiency and leverages their extensive experience and expertise to enhance the Army’s ability to safely and accurately deliver warfighters and equipment to the ground. The division’s mission also includes evaluation and integration of other equipment issued to paratroopers ensuring it doesn’t interfere with the safety of airborne operations.
“I believe there is a place in the future Army for airborne forces and it is a capability we can’t afford to lose," said Mahon, who made his 1,132nd static line parachute jump during the competition.
"Our participation allows us to understand the dynamics of parachute operations and functions of a parachute system, gives our folks credibility when briefing leadership, and enables us to develop equipment with more consciousness of safety requirements,” said Mahon.
About DEVCOM Soldier Center:
The DEVCOM Soldier Center is committed to discovering, developing, and advancing science and technology solutions that ensure America’s warfighters are optimized, protected, and lethal. DEVCOM Soldier Center supports all of the Army's Modernization efforts, with the Soldier Lethality and Synthetic Training Environment Cross Functional Teams being the DEVCOM Soldier Center’s chief areas of focus. The center’s science and engineering expertise are combined with collaborations with industry, DOD, and academia to advance Soldier and squad performance. The center supports the Army as it transforms from being adaptive to driving innovation to support a Multi-Domain Operations Capable Force of 2028 and a MDO Ready Force of 2035. DEVCOM Soldier Center is constantly working to strengthen Soldiers’ performance to increase readiness and support for warfighters who are organized, trained, and equipped for prompt and sustainable ground combat.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) outreach and mentoring the next generation of scientists and engineers are also an important part of the mission of DEVCOM Soldier Center. The mentoring of students by Army scientists and engineers benefits the students and their communities. It also increases young people's awareness of potential Army job opportunities and helps provide the Army with potential new talent, helping to fuel innovative ideas that benefit the nation's warfighters and the nation as a whole.
DEVCOM Soldier Center is part of DEVCOM. Through collaboration across the command's core technical competencies, DEVCOM leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our nation's wars and come home safely. DEVCOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.