University of Rhode Island
1 August 2015
Very special thanks to the
Rhode Island National Guard and Lt. Burmeister and her Public Affairs staff for their hospitality.
I attended the annual Leapfest competition, held at the University
of Rhode Island, on 1 August 2015. I am fortunate that this event is
only about 2 hours from me.
For the background and description of the event - from the
"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,
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"
The 2015 winners are:
"Winning team: Delta Company/2ND Battalion - 160th SOAR (A) FT.
The winning individual was from 12 (Minden) Air Assault Battery,
12th Regiment Royal Artillery UK"
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
The parachutists are carried in 4 CH-47F Chinook helicopters, that
were provided by 2 National Guard units:
Pennsylvania Army National Guard from Fort
Indiantown Gap, 07-08738 and 07-08735
New York Army National Guard from Rochester,
12-08863 and 12-08865
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
Associazione Nazionale Marinai d'Italia Italy
21 Air Assault Battery, 47 Regiment Royal Artillery United Kingdom
12 Air Assault Battery, 12 Regiment Royal Artillery United Kingdom
7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery United Kingdom
Group Support Battalion 19th Special Forces Group (ABN) USA
Delta Company/2nd Battallion - 160th SOAR(A) Kentucky USA
HHC 3/160TH SOAR (A) Georgia USA
Army Warrior Training Center Fort Benning USA
158th Rigger Support Team - Maryland USA
Luftlande brigade 1 SAARLAND Germany
144 PARA MED SQN United Kingdom
C Co. (LRS) 1-158 CAV - Maryland USA
C Co. (LRS) 2-152 Reconnaissance and Surveillance Squadron Indiana
C Co. (LRS) 1-134th CAV Nebraska USA
U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development & Engineering Center
1st BN (ABN), 509th Infantry Louisiana USA
Special Operations Detachment (SOD) - NATO Maryland USA
Special Operations Detachment (SOD) - Korea Colorado USA
195th FSC (SO) (A) Nebraska USA
982nd Combat Camera Company (Airborne) Georgia USA
B CO, 1-143rd IN (ABN) Alaska USA
HHT 1/297th CAV (ABN) Alaska USA
13 Air Assault Support Regiment RLC United Kingdom
404th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne) New Jersey USA
44 PARACHUTE REGIMENT South Africa
3 PARACHUTE BATTALION South Africa
As the crews were preparing for the day, I walked around and took
photos of the Chinooks and participants. The weather was simply
beautiful. At 0800, the official opening ceremonies began. It was
interesting to see the international participants standing in
formation together. Shortly after at around 0830, the first troops
started boarding the Chinooks with liftoff just a few moments after
that. Thus began the cycle of the Chinooks orbiting in the area at
1500 feet, dropping the participants, returning to the PZ for more
troops, and lifting off again with more troops. Once fuel was
needed, the Chinook would travel to Quonset Airport just north of
the area, for that task.
I photographed the operations at the PZ to include the helicopters,
participants putting on their gear, and returning troops arriving by
bus from the DZ. At around 0930, my schedule UH-60 flight was about
to begin. I ventured out to the waiting Blackhawk, with its rotors
spinning just feet above me. I jumped in the always-friendly crew
strapped me in. This would be my 3rd UH-60 flight with the Rhode
Island National Guard, and they never cease to impress me with their
professionalism and friendliness. We soon lifted off for a
rendezvous with an airborne Chinook. Come to find out, the UH-60,
with its side doors open, had a problem keeping up with the Chinook.
So it was decided to return to the PZ, and remove the windows. We
had to maintain the established orbit to return, so it took a bit to
get back. we landed and the crew jumped out and removed the windows,
and closed the doors. It was the first time I had witnessed this.
After just a couple minutes, we were airborne again.
We caught up to one of the Chinooks and shadowed it, until the
troops started to jump. Unfortunately, my view from within the UH-60
was mostly blocked during the jump time. But I did manage to get
quite a few shots otherwise. If you have not tried photographing
another helicopter from a helicopter with doors/windows open, it is
a challenge to say the least. However, it is an incredible
We returned to the PZ, and I did some more helicopter and troop
photos from there. A fellow photographer and I decided to head over
to the DZ to catch some action there. The public crowd there was
amazing, and luckily, we were escorted right out to the field where
the 3 large "X's" were. We were told by our escort that we have to
really watch the incoming parachutists, because they could literally
land right on us if we were not paying attention. It was a neat
perspective to catch the somewhat-violent landing of the troops so
close, and then see them race to get up and get to the X, all while
the wind caught their parachute and provided immense drag to the
We made 2 trips out to the landing area, before heading back to the
PZ for some last minute helicopter photos. The flying was coming to
an end around 2:00 PM, and I had lots of shots I was pleased with.
I want to pass very special thanks to Lt. Burmeister, the Rhode
Island National Guard, crew of my UH-60 flight, and the Leapfest
participants and organizers. I cannot say enough good things about
all of the above folks, who are extremely talented and receptive to