RI National Guard hosts 34th annual Leapfest - ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather

RI National Guard hosts 34th annual Leapfest

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By Chloe Leshner

cleshner@abc6.com

@cleshnerabc6

If you looked up at the sky in West Kingstown today, you may have noticed paratroopers leaping out of planes. The unique sight is all part of a Rhode Island National Guard tradition.

Saturday's rain pushed the training event back to Sunday. It's a competition for paratroopers that brings in military teams from around the world, going on for 34 years strong.

It's all eyes to sky as paratroopers float back to the ground to the delight of dozens of onlookers.

"We like to support the soldiers and what they do, they're very dedicated and work hard and we like to come and support them," says Becky Blanchette of Cranston

It's the 34th annual leapfest, a competition and training exercise put on by the Rhode Island National Guard.

"It's cool I mean not everyone jumps out of things in the sky so i have an appreciation for those who do it," says Wakefield resident Jay Sevey.

Military teams from around the world jump from 1500 feet in the air, aiming to make it as close as possible to a big orange target. It's a timed competition, giving paratroopers the chance to hone their skills while fostering camaraderie with troopers from other countries.

"This demonstrates our interoperability with our aviation assets and it also demonstrates that we can interact and conduct operations with other countries and with their airborne forces," says Colonel Ellis Hopkins III, the Commander of the 56th Troop Command.

Leapfest is the only competition of its kind in the world and its always been held right here in Rhode Island.

"What brings it all here is the high quality of the training that the soldiers have here and the experience that we have," says Col. Hopkins.

It may look like those landings are painful but the paratroopers do a choreographed fall so that their bodies better absorb the energy of hitting the ground.

WLNE/ABC 6 2017

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