Story and photo by Airman 1st Class Solomon Cook
Members of the Air Force ground transportation career field met for the third annual Ground Transportation Rodeo, a national competition, May 10 through 12 at Fort Leonard Wood.
The third annual Ground Transportation Rodeo, originally the regional “Best in the Midwest” competition, was hosted by the 368th Training Squadron. This year, the event showcased professionals from 12 different bases across the country.
“The history behind the rodeo is that we had an instructor who had a vision to start up a rodeo,” said Staff Sgt. Alan Graham, 368th Training Squadron ground transportation technical training instructor. “It started as just a regional event named the Best in the Midwest. As time progressed, it became a national rodeo where we had bases from all over the country come to the event. We have even had a team come all the way from Alaska.”
The event officially began May 10 with the forklift obstacle course, but competitors and other logistics readiness squadron members were surprised when Chief Master Sgt. Terrance Greene, Air Mobility Command command chief, toured the grounds of Fort Leonard Wood, met with various members of LRS on post and coined several for excellence.
“Most of you already know, I’m an old 2T1 (Ground Transportation), actually we were 603 (vehicle operators) back then,” Greene said. “Looking at the career field over the years, I have never seen it coming together like it is today. Back in the day, it was really disjointed. Everyone had their own little rice bowl, each major command did their own thing and over the last few years, I am seeing this career field coming together.”
And come together the participants did, exchanging helpful encouragement and friendly banter. In addition to bragging rights for the winners, it also served as a mentoring opportunity for Airmen new to the career field and still in technical school.
“When I’m talking to my students I like to tell them control what you can control, and don’t pass on an opportunity to grow,” said Staff Sgt. Anthony Diaz, 368th Training Squadron ground transportation technical training instructor. “You guys can control getting up early in the morning, you control whether or not you have a good time, you can control whether or not you go talk to these career field experts. You can control whether or not you take advantage of all of this knowledge from our career field.”
But Diaz’s students would soon learn, receiving information from experts and tapping into their wells of knowledge would not be their only task.
“This is the first year that we obtained approval for students to participate in the event,” Diaz explained. “Of course our job here is to train, so getting approval to allow the Airman to be part of it is a big thing. They will be embedded into the teams. This will allow them to receive firsthand experiences and mentor opportunities with leaders and experts in our career field.”
The mainstay of the event took part May 11, at the ground transportation technical school. Airmen were taxed both mentally and physically within the competition through tests from Air Force Instruction exams to a team relay.
“The relay event, that is really where camaraderie and morale is fostered,” Diaz said. “All of the other events are single person competitions, all game face. The relay is where people get to stand around and mingle — interact with the other teams that are there.”
As the relay race came to a close, the competitors waited with anticipation as the judges calculated the scores to see which team would take home the trophy.
“And this year’s winner of the third annual National Ground Transportation Rodeo is …,” the announcer slowed as tensions heightened. “Joint Base Charleston! Please come up and claim your trophy. Don’t forget to bring it back next year,” he said with a chuckle.
(Editor’s note: Cook is with the 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs Office at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois.)