Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Leap Frogs dropped over Kauffman

Yet another time I was thankful I took a camera. My photo ran with the story on the front page.
Cruising around in a C-130 with Kansas City Chiefs player Donnie Edwards wasn't a bad day either.

Photo/Megan Tilk

The U.S. Navy’s Leap Frogs jump out of a Missouri Air Guard C-130 over Kauffman Stadium on Thursday. The Leap Frogs delivered the game ball.

By MEGAN TILK St. Joseph News-Press 6/13/2008

KANSAS CITY — The sky filled with colored smoke and parachutes Thursday as the U.S. Navy’s Leap Frogs descended into Kauffman Stadium to kick off a Royals home game.
It’s an event one St. Joseph native likes to think wouldn’t happen without him on the job.
Tyler Lingerfelt, a 2003 Central High School graduate, is an aircraft loadmaster for the Missouri Air Guard. His job involves being “in charge of everything in the back,” as he put it, referring to the cargo area from where the parachutists jump.
Tethered by a single strap as the cargo door opened at 6,000 feet above land, Mr. Lingerfelt walked to the edge as if he’d done it a thousand times.
Both of Mr. Lingerfelt’s parents are in the Air Guard, as well.
“It’s a cool job, in that I show up at 11 a.m., drop Navy SEALs out of an aircraft at a baseball game and am done by 2 p.m.,” Mr. Lingerfelt said.
He remained in constant contact with the pilot through a headset as he stood on the edge. Soon, he let the Leap Frogs know it was all right for them to begin their wind tests prior to the jump.
The members of the Navy Parachute Team then took formation and soon were floating through the air
The six men come from San Diego with the goal of boosting recruiting efforts for the Navy.
For those witnessing the routine from Kauffman Stadium, the Leap Frogs meant more than a cool show. One of the members carried the opening game ball as he jumped from the aircraft.
One of the Air Guard members helping pilot the craft, a previous Missouri Western State University football player, commuted on his own dollar from Orlando, Fla., to be a part of the show.
For Lt. Col. Michael Becker, the highlight of his work day included a special passenger aboard the aircraft: Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Donnie Edwards.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever flown one of these with an NFL player,” Mr. Becker said.
Mr. Edwards chose to miss out on visiting St. Joseph for the offseason practice Thursday at MWSU when he was asked to ride along by a member of the Leap Frogs.
“I don’t serve in the military, so this is my serving,” Mr. Edwards said, “meeting these men and women and letting them know we appreciate what they do.”
Mr. Edwards plans to do more than watch as the Leap Frogs jump the next time he catches up with them. He said he wants to jump as well, after his football career.

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