EXETER, R.I. – For a group of American Soldiers who jump out of airplanes and defuse bombs for their nation, X marks the spot.
Eight Airborne Explosive Ordnance Disposal Soldiers from the 192nd Ordnance Battalion (EOD) competed against other U.S. and international airborne troops during Leapfest 2023.
Held in Exeter, Rhode Island, and hosted by the Rhode Island National Guard, the annual international parachute competition has been conducted every year for almost 40 years. The competition was started by a Green Beret in 1982.
The Fort Liberty, North Carolina-based EOD team placed 10th out of 50 teams in the competition. A team from the United Kingdom won the competition.
The teams jumped out of CH-47 Chinook helicopters from 1,500 feet and steered MC-6 parachutes toward an “X” on the ground.
Once the teams landed, the clock started until they reached the “X” and the team with the lowest time won.
Capt. Eugene E. Osbourne, the commander of the Fort Liberty, North Carolina-based 722nd EOD Company, said the Leapfest gives Airborne Soldiers the chance to focus on hitting a target.
“Typical airborne operations have you exit an aircraft and fate decides where you land. Leapfest releases you in relative proximity to the mark and you must maneuver yourself in the air safely and effectively to the target,” said Osbourne.
“MC-6 jumps allow parachutists the freedom to move closer to an intended area to land but with little precision,” said Osbourne. “In Leapfest, you have to be precise or it will cost you time and seconds decide a top 10 finish or nothing at all.”
Osbourne said participating in Leapfest helps to contribute to mission readiness for his airborne EOD company.
“The highlight of Leapfest was interactions with members from different Armed Forces from all over the world,” said Osbourne. “The ability to mingle and create relationships that further improve future training was incredibly invaluable.”
Fort Liberty, North Carolina-based EOD units from the 192nd EOD Battalion train to support the 82nd Airborne Division on Immediate Response Force missions around the world.
When assigned to the rotational Immediate Response Force mission, Airborne EOD Soldiers have to stay ready to deploy within 18 hours.
The 192nd EOD Battalion is part of the 52nd EOD Group and 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command, the U.S. Department of Defense’s premier multifunctional and deployable CBRNE command.
American Soldiers and U.S. Army civilians deploy from 19 bases in 16 states to take on the world’s most dangerous hazards in support of joint, interagency and allied operations.
During Leapfest, teams from the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Air Force competed against Armenian, British, Czech Republic, Dutch, Egyptian, Greek, German, Italian and Portuguese teams. Active Duty and National Guard teams from the U.S. participated in the competition.
Sgt. 1st Class Drew Hawley, a platoon leader from the 722nd EOD Company, said the weather was good throughout the competition.
“In my opinion, the highlight of Leapfest was the weather holding out and giving us the green light to complete all four planned jumps,” said Hawley. “It gives us an opportunity to use and test all of the functionalities of the MC-6 parachute. On normal jumps, you may not need to do a whole lot of steering but during the competition trying to land on a small X, your parachute handling skills are tested.”
Staff Sgt. Christopher A. Smith from the 722nd EOD Company said teams had to take many factors into consideration during the competition.
“You have your fellow teammates in the air with you potentially all aiming for the same target and about 1 minute of hangtime before the ground,” said Smith. “In that minute, you have to calculate windspeed, direction of drift, rate of decent and determine which way your team is going so you don’t collide and get to that X.”
Smith said the competition helped the team to develop its skills for future operations.
“By pushing ourselves and our canopies, we were able to build more confidence and expertise so we can provide better training for our future airborne EOD techs,” said Smith. “We just need more canopy time and the 722nd EOD is taking the gold next year.”
|Date Posted:||09.14.2023 12:27|
|Location:||EXETER, RI, US|
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