Not for cowboys
Rodeo showcases readiness, aerial capabilities

Capt. Jennifer Lovett and Airman Edward Drescher
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***It’s not a typical rodeo. There no horses, ropes or cattle. And the spectactors won’t be wearing cowboy hats. Instead, this rodeo is an all-out competition to demonstrate aerial capbilities among Airmen throughout the Air Force.

Two teams representing the 86th Airlift Wing and the 721st Air Mobility Operations Group will compete in the 2005 Air Mobility Expeditionary Rodeo June 19 to 24 at McChord Air Force Base, Wash.

The 86th AW is sending a 31-person team and a vintage 1964 C-130E model Hercules to compete as Team Ramstein. This is the first rodeo for these Airmen, seven which are from the 435th Air Base Wing.

The 721st AMOG team, which represents all air mobility commands in the European theater, is comprised of Airmen from Ramstein, Incirlik, Aviano and RAF Mildenhall.

“This is an opportunity that you don’t get very often and I want to make the best of it,” said Aviano’s Staff Sgt. Scott Hepburn, who will be competing in his first rodeo.

The rodeo, which started in 1962, is a competition between AMC units throughout the world that showcases worldwide air mobility forces abilities. The competition tests their combat skills in areas as diverse as C-130 assault landings to team 9mm combat tactics firing.

In 1979, international air mobility partners began competing in addition to the U.S. AMC units. This year’s rodeo includes nations such as Great Britain, Canada, Germany and Japan.

“This competition is to see who is the best of the best; not just in our Air Force but in the world,” said Tech. Sgt. Tim Owen, 723rd Air Mobility Squadron, who is the 721st AMOG team chief.

The competition is a series of different events ranging from the Air Force fit-to-fight fitness test to inspections of hazardous cargo. In the points-based events, teams get deductions for things such as safety violations, basic errors and incorrect documentation.

“We’ve got a great team and we’ve got a great chance to be the best team in each event,” said Sergeant Owen, who has competed in two previous rodeos.

The 1964 model C-130 “Herk” that Team Ramstein is taking has 25,000 flying hours and has been in every war since Vietnam. A six-member aircrew will fly airdrop missions and assault landings with a target of being with 25 yards of the drop zone and within less than three seconds of time over target.

“We’ll be competing against brand new C-130J and H models, looking squarely in the face of technology,” said Maj. Jeff Menasco, C-130 Rodeo aircraft commander. “The C-130 is a true workhorse.”

The maintainers for that workhorse will strive to beat the last mark of sixth by marshalling the aircraft, performing inspections, as well as servicing fuel, hydraulics and oxygen systems. At the same time, the team will battle others in security forces, medical evacuations, and aerial port and airdrop inspections.

“The goal is to go in with guns blazing and smoke the competition,” said Tech. Sgt. Marsh Fonzell, Rodeo maintainer team chief.

As much as the rodeo is a competition, it is just as much a chance to build morale and test the flight and ground skills of worldwide aircrews.

“Even though our overall operations tempo remains very high, it is now time for us to resume this important competition. After all, it is this spirit of competition that builds strong bonds within AMC and lasting relationships between our AMC professionals and our international partners,” said Gen. John Handy, AMC commander.