WEST KINGSTON, R.I. — Soldiers with the Maryland Army National Guard's Special Operations Detachment recently participated in Leapfest, an international static line parachute training event and competition.
Army Master Sgts. William Stout, Grover Thompson, Kevin Facemeyer and Army Maj. Mark Westphall, represented one of three teams of elite paratroopers from the SOD.
Claiming the title of top paratrooper in the world with the best individual time was Stout. In the team category, his team placed seventh overall.
"All I really wanted to do was to go there and support my team and unit the best I could," said Stout.
A native of State College in central Pennsylvania, he dominated the individual event by exiting a CH-47 Chinook helicopter at an altitude of 1,500 feet and hitting the landing target after touching down within two seconds.
Leapfest consists of individual and team events requiring more than 300 competitors and 70 teams, representing some of the best paratroopers from around the world, to perform two jumps individually and eight jumps as a team. Paratroopers must land as close as possible to a marked, designated area within the landing zone. Upon completion of a parachute landing fall, the competitors are timed by qualified judges until reaching a designated completion area.
Each year, Stout's unit sends competitors to Leapfest, but for him, it's the first time.
"The fact that I had the best individual time still feels surreal," Stout said.
To prepare for this competition, Stout said his unit uses the required four jumps each year to maintain individual and collective airborne readiness. He also expressed the advantage of using available aircraft within the Maryland Army Guard's Army Aviation command throughout the training year.
"As a unit, we are really set up well for an event like Leapfest," he said.
In addition to the U.S. military services who participated in Leapfest, 32 international teams were also formed from South Africa, Canada, Great Britain, Italy, Netherlands, Germany, Botswana and Czech Republic.
SODs are frequently deployed to support other commands around the world.
"A big part of Leapfest is meeting paratroopers from all around the world, sharing stories, and learning from one another," said Stout."This is especially important in today's conflicts since the U.S. Army is almost always conducting operations with the support of our international partners."