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Rodeo 2011: The courage to compete

  • Published
  • By Col. Mike Hornitschek
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing commander
It's awesome to be back after spending some time out at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., for the Air Mobility Command Rodeo, and it's even better to come back with a little extra luggage! I'm speaking of the trophy for the incredible win by our financial management team in their very first appearance at Rodeo!

Their outstanding performance is indicative of how well all of our teams performed, and I could not be more proud of the men and women of the 375th Air Mobility Wing and of the 932nd Airlift Wing who we partnered with in the flight attendant competition. Our partnership was the only Total Force Integrated team represented at Rodeo this year.

The competitions were so close and every one of our teams were front runners--not only making a name for themselves, but sending a message that the 375 AMW is a force to be reckoned with! All of our teams did extremely well and are to be commended for their incredibly enthusiastic and competitive spirit!

To give you an example of how far we've come and how well we represented ourselves, in 2009 the wing only sent one C-21 aircrew from Peterson AFB, Colo., to compete. The great news is back then even that single team brought home the trophy for Best Operational Support Airlift/VIP Special Mission Aircrew!

We're proud of that history, but fast forward to this year to see how we sent in four teams--adding a flight attendants team, an aeromedical evacuation team and for the first time in Rodeo history, comptroller teams that competed to be the best of the best! While we all want to come home with that gorgeous trophy, they truly all are winners based on how they "outserved, outshined and outperformed" in every aspect their events.

Regardless of how a team ultimately places, it's important to recognize it takes a certain sense of pride and ownership, and courage to compete like this. Just raising one's hand to represent the team and make the training sacrifices earns my respect and makes each of our competitors a winner in my book. One small example is how they initiated training and fundraising on weekends to work around other taskings and mission requirements; they did this on their own and shows the valiant spirit within not only for the teams themselves, but also their squadrons who rallied around them. Theirs was truly a "showcase" performance!

I just want to say a few words about each team.

C-21: Capts. Chris Kerker and Collie Henkel flew nearly perfect the entire week! The C-21 aircrews are judged on spot landings, timed arrivals and a block in time. This crew was so precise that they only missed the target landing zone by 150', 52', 47' and a remarkable 17 feet, which was the best landing of all participants. Just to tell you how perfect their timing was, out of four timed landings their time was 0, 0, 0, and 1 second from the mark. Right up until the last flight they were in first place, when the winning team pulled off some incredible landings. Regardless, these instructor pilots from the 311th Airlift Squadron rocked this competition, and were one landing away from the gold!

Aeromedical Evacuation Team: Everyone needs the opportunity to see these folks in action! I got to watch them compete, and I for one am thoroughly impressed with their knowledge and ability in multiple aircraft--it was intense. They not only competed in aircraft configuration and patient movement, but also in a fit-to-fight challenge as well. This team that formed back in April, finished second in the KC-135 configuration and third in the C-17. In addition, team leader Capt. Adrianne Ketelsen also ran the 1.5 mile in just under 10 minutes; all in all she and her team made for a successful combination. [Other team members were: Capt. Leann Hisle and Staff Sgts. John Andrew, Jason Carrico and Eric Hammerstrom.]

Flight Attendants: One of the most exciting competitions out there involves what our flight attendants do. Along with being evaluated on how well they perform routine duties aboard and aircraft, a team of three were also tested on how well [and safely] they evacuated personnel during an in-flight emergency--a feat they accomplished in just 28 seconds--the best time in the event. There was also a two-person team who were tested on culinary skills--something a lot of people don't realize that is part of their duties. They were given a budget of $400 and three hours to shop and prepare a meal for 25 dignitaries, and their grilled peaches and a tri-tip style cut of beef were a huge hit! They were also under the microscope of the media as well as a Korean national news crew filmed everything they did. [Team members were Tech. Sgts. Oriel Rodriguez and Danielle Sloan (both Reservists), and Staff Sgts. Crystal Starman, Juan Flores and Amy Gillilan.]

Comptroller Team: This was new to everyone, and the first time in at least a decade where FM teams have competed in what used to be called "Top Dollar." And, because it was the first time at Rodeo, they [AMC officials] wanted it to be challenging so they created a scenario where they were to set up a bare base in Afghanistan and work all financial aspects of that operation. They competed every day from about 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. with about 40 different scenarios each day, and were scored on how well they tabulated their numbers down to the zero-penny. Their competition also included a fitness challenge and an obstacle course that simulated a combat environment, and out of five full days of competition, they placed first in three of those days, and ultimately beat out 11 other teams to bring home the coveted trophy, so a "Job Well Done" shout out goes to this team of professionals! [The team, nicknamed "Loose Change," consisted of Tech. Sgt. Kurt Wells and Staff Sgts. Robert Shearer and Justin Ellrich.]

In all, the Wingman culture has been alive and well with Team Scott; each RODEO team had a rich, wonderful growth experience. They got to meet with their compatriots from around the world and see a glimpse of what the rest of AMC does--something they don't get to see every day. This experience has tremendous value as Brig. Gen. Rick Martin, the AMC Rodeo 2011 commander, stated: "It's about capturing excellence, building partnerships, promoting esprit de corps, and it celebrates our heritage."

We're already looking at plans for 2013 and looking for the next set of teams that will carry on the legacy--teams of dedicated Airmen who have that courage to compete! The more teams that step up to compete and be recognized for their excellence is what the 375 AMW is all about. It's about fulfilling our vision of providing award-winning combat capability to the warfighter--always! Again, congratulations to our teams, to our Rodeo team leader, Lt. Col. Sean McFarland, 311th Airlift Squadron, and thanks to all who were involved who made Rodeo 2011 a most memorable and spectacular experience!