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Royal plunge: WHS alum leads Navy Leapfrogs

Navy personnel and civilians snap pictures Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, as Chief Brad Woodard lands with an American flag in front of the Minnesota Capitol. Woodard, a Woodbury, Minn., native, is part of a Navy skydiving team known as the Leapfrogs. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)1 / 2
Pointing to a friend, Brad Woodard poses Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, with Ann Mason of Woodbury, Minn., whose son and Woodard were friends when the boys grew up in the Twin Cities suburb. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)2 / 2

ST. PAUL -- Brad Woodard has some work to do.

"We missed it by 2 inches," the Woodbury native said of the T-shaped landing zone in front of the Minnesota Capitol building and 4,000 feet below where his Navy Leapfrog parachute team bailed out of an airplane.

The team will need to work on that, he said. "It is all about training."

The sailor, chief of the Navy Leapfrogs, and two colleagues drew a couple hundred people to the little-publicized event on the Capitol mall, one of 600 to 700 demonstrations the parachute team does each year.

It is an important way to tell people in the middle of the country that "hard work can get you anywhere," Woodard said.

The 1995 Woodbury High School graduate said that the demonstration team illustrates what happens in the military, especially the Navy.

The son of a Marine ("don't tell anybody," he jokes) and neighbor to three Navy SEALS in Woodbury, Woodard headed to Duluth later Wednesday to take part in Navy week.

Research shows that Minnesota is among the states that most value the Navy, but its citizens know little about it, said Lt. Roger Reinert of the Navy Reserve. Navy week in Duluth is meant to reintroduce the branch of service to those who live near Lake Superior, added Reinert, soon to be promoted to lieutenant commander.

Attracting Minnesotans to the Navy "is a bit challenging," said Reinert, who also is a state senator. "It is hard to get them in if they don't know what it is."

Demonstrations such as the Leapfrogs put on Wednesday and the Blue Angels will do in Duluth this weekend "is money well spent in the Midwest and Upper Midwest," said Reinert, who works in the Navy Reserve public affairs sector.

Such shows reinforce the importance of volunteers in today's military, he added.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.