Ramstein gets hardware at RODEO

by Capt. Megan Schafer
Ramstein Public Affairs

Airmen from Team Ramstein competed at the 2009 Air Mobility Command RODEO competition at McChord Air Force Base, Wash., July 19 to 24, bringing home six awards between the 86th Airlift Wing, the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing and 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing.

The week-long mobility readiness competition brought together more than 2,500 servicemembers from around the Air Force and the globe to compete in more than 50 competitions. The teams included members from the Air Force Reserve, the Air National Guard and the allied nations of Belgium, Germany, Great Britain, Spain, Malaysia, Israel, the Republic of Korea and Turkey. 

“Getting to socialize with the other nations’ air forces and learn about some alternative ways of doing business successfully was great,” said Maj. Dan Collister, 37th Airlift Squadron chief of training. “In particular, we were able to foster closer ties with the British C-130J (crews) from Lynham and the Israeli C-130 unit, which will only benefit the 86th AW.”

Focused on improving worldwide air mobility forces’ professional core abilities, the competition featured more than 40 aircraft participating in airdrops, aerial refueling and other aerial events, as well as several new ground-focused competitions. 

 “Our team of 51 Airmen competed in 10 events, taking home awards for the Best Aeromedical Evacuation Team, Best Aeromedical Evacuation Contingency Flight, Best C-130 Low Level/Airdrop Crew and Best Operational Support Airlift/Very Important Person Special Air Mission Arrival Crew,” said Lt. Col. Stuart Weinberger, Ramstein RODEO team chief. “We competed very professionally and learned a lot.”

Additionally, the 521st AMOW received awards for the Best Aerial Port 10K Forklift Operators and Best Enroute Engines-running Offload team, and the German military team took home the Best Security Forces Combat Tactics award.

With more than 70 awards up for grabs, the competition in each category was fierce.

 “All of the other teams had excellent representation and we knew we were up against the best,” said Tech. Sgt. Rachel Anderson, a member of the 86th Aeromedical Squadron who competed in the AE events. “Each event took its toll on us physically and mentally. We felt extremely proud that we could represent our squadron in such a positive way.”

To prepare for the event and balance real-world missions and deployments proved a challenge for many, including the AE teams, but their hard work paid off.

“They used their weekends and off time to train as a team, running C-130 configuration drills on static trainers on the weekend. This little extra really helped them improve their crew coordination and communication,” said Col. Tamara Averettbrauer, 86th AES commander. “I participated in the first AE RODEO competition in 1996 when I was a flight nurse in the 86th AES, and the progress and level of confidence and expertise of these AE warriors is truly impressive.”

Though extra practice certainly played a part in winning the awards, for many it was also about simply being an expert in their craft as some of the training could not be conducted at Ramstein. For example, night vision goggle training was made difficult due to local quiet hour restrictions and extended day-light hours, so the crews had to leave early to accomplish training enroute to McChord.

“We were able to fly as a full crew twice before the RODEO and as a partial crew a few more times,” Major Collister said. “We were working with some real all-stars … getting the opportunity to fly with some of the best pilots and loadmasters the 37th AS has to offer was a real treat for me.”

Besides an increase in awards, this year’s competition was also special due to the inclusion of three new events: the flight attendant competition, combat marksman competition and the contingency response competition. Ramstein participated in all of the events.

“This year we are seeing more of the combat support skills people participate,” said Gen. Arthur J. Lichte, AMC commander. “They are the first ones we’re going to send for deployment. For them to be out here competing and sharing notes with the other contingency response units from around the world … that’s where the real value is.”

The 435th Contingency Response Group was invited to represent U.S. Air Forces in Europe and compete against the CONUS contingency response units, which are considered the “secret weapon” in AMC’s arsenal, General Lichte said.

In addition to the air transportation events performed by the group’s aerial porters and the security forces competition performed by the security forces personnel, the 435th CRG also competed in two of the three Contingency Response events: the C2 ERO, or Engine Running On-load/Off-load; and the SPICE, or Small Package Initial Communications Element.

 “The RODEO was a great opportunity to proudly represent the one-of-a-kind AGOW in USAFE and share our experiences with other units, both international and U.S. Air Force,” said Maj. Leo Gage, 435th Air Mobility Squadron Assistant Director of Operations and lead for the contingency operations team.

But it wasn’t just the one-of-a-kind units participating or the number of awards earned that made this year’s competition special for Ramstein. It was also unique because it was the first time the wing took a C-130J to the competition. During the 2007 competition, Team Ramstein’s 47-year-old C-130E was the second oldest aircraft participating in the events.

“It speaks volumes that we were there in a J-model, and even more so to bring home so much iron,” said Brig. Gen. Bill Bender, outgoing 86th AW commander. “I’m proud of our team for showcasing our efforts among the mobility world.”

For more than 50 years, RODEO has helped Air Force mobility professionals foster teamwork and hone their skills, developing professional, disciplined Airmen. For more information or for a full list of award winners, check out www.amc.af.mil.

A full list of Team Ramstein participants and additional photos are available at