WEST KINGSTON, R.I. - Paratroopers from around the world waited for the dense fog that rolled in the night before to clear. As they performed their sustained airborne training, thumping sounds of the blades of a CH-47 Chinook Helicopter echoed through the trees and onto the pick-up zone. As the fog started to clear, the paratroopers were ready to board the helicopters for the start of the largest, longest standing, international static line parachute training event and competition: Leapfest 2012.
Over 250 paratroopers and including nine foreign jump teams participated in the competition August 3rd and 4th on the Castle Drop Zone, a converted sod farm located right behind the West Kingston Elementary School. Seven teams from U.S. Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) competed in the competition.
"This is some great experience and it is something that I would never have the opportunity to do," said Sgt. 1st Class Edward Dutch of the 450th Civil Affairs Battalion, Riverdale, Md. "It is good to learn techniques from foreign paratroopers and would like to have some of the younger soldiers to have that exposure and experience."
The object of the competition was to have a team of four to jump out of a Chinook 1,500 feet in the air strapped to an MC1-1C/D static line, steerable, parabolic parachute. Upon landing using a completed parachute landing fall, competitors are timed from the landing to an orange "X" in the middle of the drop zone. The combined total of the team after three jumps are calculated with the shortest time going to the winning team.
"My strategy for this competition is not to go over the target," said Spc. Cierra Terry of USACAPOC(A). "I plan on landing before the target and dump air when I am about 200 feet." Dumping air allows the paratrooper to descend faster to hit the target accurately.
Terry is one of four paratroopers that made up an all-female team comprised of 1st Lt. Laurie Hawkins, Staff Sgt. Lisa Dodd and Sgt. Heather Manley all from Headquarters and headquarters company, USACAPOC(A).
As the only female team, the media spotlight shined on the paratroopers as they floated down from the bright Rhode Island sky.
"I am having a great time here spending time in meeting different paratroopers. Maybe other units can take from the opportunity that you can bring female jumpers," added Terry.
Organized by the Rhode Island National Guard, this marks the 30th year of the competition where the first event was held at a different location.
"The difference from about 25 years ago is that they are now using the CH-47