Paratroopers compete for parachuting glory

Paratroopers have competed in an international military parachuting competition in the USA, building both their skills and relationships with NATO airborne forces.

Alongside soldiers and airmen from seven other countries, some 40 troops from 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team’s units took part in Leapfest, which is run by the Rhode Island Army National Guard. 

Competing individually and as teams of four, paratroopers jump under US Army MC-6 parachutes from Chinook helicopters flying at 1,500ft. The aim is to land as close as possible to a defined point on the drop zone, with troops judged on the time between their feet hitting the ground and touching the target.

Specially trained and equipped to deploy by air, airborne forces across the world’s militaries have a shared role and mindset as rapid reaction forces. At Leapfest, troops from 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team were able to build on existing relationships with NATO paratroopers from the US Army and Air Force, the Dutch 11 Luchtmobiele Brigade, German Luftlandebrigade 1 ‘Saarland’, and the Italian Brigata Parachutisti ‘Folgore’, as well as building new bonds with paratroopers from Colombia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Major Aidy Mortimore, of Headquarters 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team, said: “Leapfest is a great opportunity to develop our parachuting skills and build links with airborne forces from across the world, particularly our NATO allies.

"We've been able to develop our understanding of each other and can learn from how we all approach the same job in a slightly different way." Major Aidy Mortimore

“We’ve trained on a different parachute system and jumped from helicopters, which is not a UK capability, and that has broadened our skills and ability to operate with our allies. But the real benefit of Leapfest is about talking to paratroopers from other armies to build on the existing relationships between us. We've been able to develop our understanding of each other and can learn from how we all approach the same job in a slightly different way.”