Air Guard and Air Force Reserve support the Navy celebrating with Minnesota baseball teams

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Mark Moss
  • 133rd Airlift Wing
Along with Twins mascot T.C. Bear and Mudonna from the St. Paul Saints, another fun component to baseball games in Minnesota in July with an animal name is the Leap Frogs, the U. S. Navy parachute demonstration team, who recently jumped into the clubs' respective stadiums. On July 20, 2010, the Leap Frogs parachuted from a Minnesota Air National Guard C-130 "Hercules" aircraft into a St. Paul Saints game at Midway Stadium, and then jumped again from the same aircraft belonging to the 133rd Airlift Wing on July 21, 2010, helping open a Minnesota Twins game at Target Field in downtown Minneapolis.

The professional baseball teams have strong ties to the military units in Minnesota, and this mission brought the U.S. Navy, the Navy Reserve, the Minnesota Air National Guard and the U. S. Air Force Reserve together for these jumps over the Twin Cities. For the aircraft commander of the C-130 flying the Sailors over the stadiums, Maj. Jeff Wong of the 133rd Airlift Wing, this presented a unique opportunity to work with other services and represent the military in the civilian community.

"Working with the Leap Frogs is always a sought after mission due to their elite status and the venue they typically jump into," Maj. Wong says. "It's not every day you get the opportunity to drop one of the U. S. military parachute demonstration teams into the opening ceremony of your hometown ball game."

Also, due to deployments involving Airmen from the 133rd Airlift Wing, air crew members were called in from the 934th Airlift Wing, U. S. Air Force Reserve based in Minneapolis, providing even more joint service operations. According to Maj. Wong, "Since their mission is identical to ours it was really a seamless transition putting them in our airplane and integrating them into the crew."

Hours of meticulous planning went into the missions, which included coordination with the air and ground crews from the units involved, along with civilian aviation agencies and the baseball organizations. The jumps over Midway Stadium and Target Field were from only a few thousand feet above ground level, providing a great view for the thousands of fans in the stadiums to watch the aerial ballet that preceded games on both days.

On July 21, the Twins were celebrating Navy Day, and activities included music from the Navy, Sailors lined up between home plate and the bases and a color guard for the national anthem, and then the Leap Frogs parachuting out of the back of the C-130 and gliding down into Target Field. The Leap Frogs, wearing Twins jerseys, trailed smoke, carried flags with them, and brought the game ball to the mound for the ceremonial first pitch. Fireworks exploded as the 40,799 fans sang and cheered, even as the C-130 did their escape pass over the scoreboard and then headed back to the base at the Minneapolis St. Paul international airport.

The game was especially exciting for the hometown crowd as Minnesota defeated the Cleveland Indians 6 - 0. Perhaps another highlight, at least for the Airmen and Sailors involved, was the seventh inning stretch, where the C-130 air crew joined the Navy and Twins mascot T.C. Bear, singing "Take me out to the ball game." For the Air National Guard crew, they appreciated the chance to take the Navy Leap Frogs to the ball games and hope there will be other opportunities soon.