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Gov. Burgum, mayor and candidate to parachute jump with Navy team

Gov. Doug Burgum1 / 3
Tim Mahoney2 / 3
Kelly Armstrong3 / 3

FARGO — Running for public office is a leap of faith.

There's a certain gravity to the decision.

But this weekend, three local and state politicians will take a different leap. And it's certain gravity will be heavily involved.

Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, and Republican U.S. House candidate Kelly Armstrong, are scheduled to make tandem jumps with the U.S. Navy Leap Frogs, a precision parachute team, during the Fargo AirSho.

Mahoney will be the first of the trio to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, during the Friday, July 27, AirSho rehearsal at Hector International Airport.

"I'm just hoping I'm a small part of the show," Mahoney said Tuesday.

Making a big splash — or worse, a splat — " would not be fun for me," he said.

Mahoney was invited to jump with the Leap Frogs as part of Navy Week in Fargo.

The 69-year-old mayor says this qualifies as a bucket list item.

As a young man, he was on a water skiing team in Devils Lake that rigged a parachute for parasailing for a show they put on.

"I had no control to steer it. I was at the mercy of the boat driver. I learned a lot about trust," Mahoney said.

He's also been scuba diving. On one dive, he learned about stingrays the hard way, thinking he had found an unusually smooth stick.

"They're buried in the sand and have their tails up. I reached down and it wasn't a smooth stick. I don't know who swam away faster," Mahoney said.

The Leap Frogs are a 15-member team made up of SEALS, special warfare combatant-craft crewmen, and parachute riggers drawn from Naval Special Warfare groups. Each member is a volunteer and serves three years, according to the Navy SEAL Museum.

Burgum will be in Saturday's show.

The Republican governor hopped on the chance to jump with the Navy's best.

"They asked and I said yes without hesitation. I view it as a great, exciting opportunity," he said.

Burgum has jumped before. While at North Dakota State University, he took a one-credit physical education course that involved ground training and one jump with an old-fashioned round parachute.

He's also done some parasailing in New Zealand.

"People maybe think I'm crazy. I'm really excited about it," Burgum said.

Armstrong had been planning to take in the AirSho anyway, so he's not kicking about a chance to jump with the Frogs.

"It's always something I've wanted to do and never taken the time to do it," Armstrong said.

"Navy SEALS are probably the single most elite group on the planet. To be part of it is exciting," Armstrong said. "If you're going to do it, you're with the safest people on the planet. It puts me at ease a little bit."

Burgum is also confident the Leap Frogs will make sure his long fall doesn't end with a sudden stop.

But he's fine with Mahoney taking the first jump.

"I appreciate his leadership on going the day before and getting all the kinks worked out," Burgum joked.

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including K-12 education, Fargo city government, criminal justice, and military affairs. He is currently one of The Forum's business reporters.

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