Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:17 pm
The United States Navy Leap Frogs Parachute Demonstration Team opened the air segment of the Milwaukee Air and Water Show both Saturday, Aug. 11, and Sunday, Aug. 12, waving an 800-square-foot American flag as they landed on Bradford Beach.
View a video of the jump here.
The Leap Frogs, a 12-person unit based in San Diego, travel the country conducting parachute jumps to raise awareness for Navy Special Warfare and the U.S. Navy as a whole. All 12 Leap Frogs are members of Navy Special Warfare and commit full time to the unit for three years.
The unit makes the majority of its jumps in air shows and demonstrations during Navy weeks and Fleet weeks and often attempts complicated formations that propel Leap Frogs up to 180 miles per hour while parachuting.
Justin Gonzales, a U.S. Navy SEAL and Special Warfare Operator First Class and one of three Leap Frogs appearing at the Milwaukee lakefront, has made about 750 jumps across the country since joining the Leap Frog team a year ago. He made his first jump in Milwaukee on Saturday.
“Honestly, sometimes [jumps] kind of run together, but Milwaukee is one of a kind and everyone here knows that,” Gonzales said. “It’s a little bit windier here and the location is right off the lake, so it’s pretty nice to see that view from up top.”
Prior to parachuting, the three Leap Frogs rode with the Air Force Reserves aboard the 440th Airlift Wing’s C-130 Hercules, a military aircraft carrier partially designed to airdrop troops and equipment into conflict zones.
The 440th reserve unit spent more than 50 years based at General Mitchell International Airport Air Reserve Station in Milwaukee before transferring down to Pope Air Force Base in Pope Field, N.C., in 2007. About 50 reservists in the unit still live in Southeastern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois and fly down to North Carolina once a month to train with the rest of the wing.
With strong ties to Milwaukee, the unit was recruited both last year and this year to fly the lakefront show.
“The heritage we have in Milwaukee – it kind of makes it a natural fit for us to come back and participate in the Air and Water Show,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Steve Staedler, a public affairs specialist with the 440th Airlift Wing.
Senior Master Sgt. Bill Westling, a flight engineer who has worked for the 440th since 1988, relocated from Cedarburg, Wis., to N.C. in 2006 to remain with the wing.
“Letting the locals see the 440th in action again over the skies of Milwaukee is a fantastic thrill for us as a crew,” Westling said.