Story and photos by Regan Mertz
The second annual Air Force Ground Transportation Rodeo was held on May 18 and 19 at Training Area 244.
The competitors came from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana; Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas; McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas; Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri; Scott Air Force Base, Illinois; Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, paired with Missouri’s 190th Air Refueling Wing; Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington; Robins Air Force Base, Georgia; the Fort Leonard Wood Schoolhouse; and the Missouri Air National Guard Team.
The audience included Airmen within the career field, and family members, in addition to the inbound and outbound Career Field managers.
“The biggest thing that I’ve seen is not only the growth and camaraderie, but also in the skill sets,” said the current Ground Transportation Career Field manager, Chief Master Sgt. Jason Hohenstreiter.
Teams of four competed in various events, such as the 4k Forklift Maze, 10k All-Terrain Forklift Obstacle Course, Tractor-Trailer Driving skills course, and Team Tie Down Event, as well as a knowledge-based test over Air Force Instruction 24-301 and Air Force Manual 24-306.
The 4k Forklift Maze, 10k All-Terrain Forklift Obstacle Course and Team Tie Down Event were all timed events. However, the 10k All-Terrain event included an additional challenge: the driver had to keep a basketball from falling off of a barrel that was sitting on the forklift. Scores were based off times for all events, but for the 10k event, the falling of the basketball was also considered.
Friday’s events consisted of the 4k Forklift Maze, followed by an icebreaker and meet-and-greet.
The events continued Saturday with a knowledge-based test, along with the 10k All-Terrain Forklift course, Tractor Trailer course and a Team Tie-Down event that included assets that were borrowed from the Army motor pool.
“It is a friendly competition where members from our career field gather and showcase their driving skills, as well as their career-field knowledge against one another,” said Tech. Sgt. Gerald Davis of the 364th Training Squadron.
Davis and Tech. Sgt. Timothy Brady, also of the 364th Training Squadron, coordinated and planned this year’s rodeo.
“We’re trying to foster a culture of community within our career field,” Brady said. “We have bases as far out as Washington that came down, we have our Career Field managers here, and it’s really just an opportunity for us to get together and network, socialize and get to know each other.”
This year’s rodeo fell during Transportation Week. Transportation Week is a national event that commemorates those who work in the transport industry in America.
“It’s Transportation Week nationally; our career field is ground transportation, and we’re out here driving our vehicles,” Davis said. “Each of the teams came in for an opportunity to show their skills, so that way you get bragging rights as the best of the best.”
The awards ceremony took place following all events with the first award given to Scott Air Force Base for their team spirit during the ice-breaking activities that occurred on Friday.
Robins Air Force Base had the fastest time in the 4k maze; Tech. Sgt. Michael Imler of the 364th Training Squadron earned the highest score for the knowledge-based test; McConnell Air Force Base had the fastest time for the Tractor Trailer skills course; Creech Air Force Base, working with the 190th Air Refueling Wing, had the fastest time in the 10k All-Terrain Event and McConnell Air Force Base had the fastest time for the Team Tie-Down event.
The overall winner, configured by a culmination of scores over the course of the rodeo, was McConnell Air Force Base.
“Folks are doing more individual training. In the past, once you were trained, you’d be good to go, but now it’s really encouraging in the continuity of training,” Hohenstreiter said. “They’re taking a little bit more out of the box, the new skills they’re really polishing and honing those wartime capabilities. There’s a benefit to be had from rodeos and readiness exercises.”