National Guard Supporters Sample Leapfest Adventure
By Army Master Sgt. Bob Haskell
Special to American Forces Press Service
KINGSTON, R.I., Aug. 8, 2008 No, they did not jump out of a perfectly good helicopter.
Brown University graduate research manager Tom Alarie checks out the terrain for Leapfest 2008 during a flight in an Army National Guard helicopter arranged by the Rhode Island Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve on Aug. 7-, 2008. Sixteen people participated in the morning’s event for civilian employers and supervisors of members of the National Guard. U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Bob Haskell, National Guard Bureau
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
But 16 civilians involved with Rhode Island’s Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program did get an idea of what an international group of military paratroopers would experience during Leapfest 2008 two days before the 26th annual international competition takes place here tomorrow.
The civilians, including an assistant U.S. attorney, a U.S. Naval War College professor, and the owner of a North Kingston pest control business, were flown aboard an Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter over the Rhode Island countryside on that heavily overcast Thursday morning.
They saw for themselves the terrain the airborne soldiers would glimpse during the couple of minutes it would take them to parachute onto a landing zone beside the University of Rhode Island after jumping out of larger helicopters at 1,500 feet.
“We had a good mix of educators, public officials and small-business people who support our National Guard and reserve troops,” said Donna Callahan, executive director for Rhode Island’s Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve committee. “We wanted to give them an idea of what Leapfest, which is hosted by the Rhode Island Guard, is all about.”
ESGR officials frequently escort civilian employers or supervisors for National Guardmembers and reservists to events such as Leapfest to give them an idea of what citizen-servicemembers do when they are in uniform and away from their jobs. It is one way that ESGR, whose national committee is based in Arlington, Va., attempts to avoid conflicts arising from employees’ military commitments.
Ironically, the ESGR participants in Rhode Island were the only ones to get off the ground that day. The paratroopers from 11 countries were grounded by rain clouds that were too low to safely make the friendship jumps that were also intended to familiarize the foreign troops with the equipment used for the competition, explained Air National Guard Lt. Col. Denis Riel, the Rhode Island National Guard’s state spokesman.
“I got interested in ESGR because First Lieutenant Kate Auxier, in the Army National Guard, used to work for me,” explained Tom Alarie, manager of a graduate-level population studies and training program at Brown University in Providence.
“I wanted to see this because we teach National Guard and reserve officers at the Naval War College in Newport,” said Jeffrey Norwitz, a professor of national security decision making. “We have always had a good relationship with the National Guard and Reserve.”
Callahan said that ESGR initiatives such as giving these civilians a birds-eye view of Leapfest would only help improve such relationships.