Paratroopers descend on R.I. for annual competition

(Matthew Beltz/WPRI)

SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) – American and allied paratroopers hit the silk Saturday morning for the 33rd annual Leapfest parachute competition.

The competition draws nearly 300 paratroopers to the fields near the University of Rhode Island, where they compete to see who can make it to a target marked on the ground the fastest.

The soldiers jump from a CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopter and maneuver their parachutes towards one of three markers on the ground, and after they’ve landed they run to it as quickly as possible.

But Leapfest is more than just a friendly competition: it’s also an important training exercise.

“It is designed to foster camaraderie and interoperability among airborne forces from all over the world,” Col. Ellis F. Hopkins, commander of the R.I. Army National Guard’s 56th Troop Command, said.

Sixty teams of jumpers attended: half are Americans and half are allied soldiers from Germany, Italy, Morocco, Mexico, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, the U.K., and Canada.

Last year, the winning team was a group from the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment from Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The soldier with the best individual times was from the United Kingdom.

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