Leader staff writer
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. — Team Little Rock hasn’t displayed the “quiet confidence” Col. Mike Minihan, commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, encouraged them to during this week’s air rodeo competition.
In fact, the confidence of team members, observers and civic leaders has been loud and proud, yet sportsmanlike, all week.
Tuesday morning saw hootin’ and hollerin’ after LRAFB security forces team earned 371 out of 400 points in its combat-tactics event.
Team members were told to complete a simulated mission where they would secure an area to deliver relief supplies to a USAID worker in a combat zone. The team was fired on during the delivery, the worker was injured and the team had to get him out of the zone to safety.
Communication was key to doing well, team members said, and the umpire told the team afterward that it had been the best of the competitors so far in the event. He said some of the things members did made him want “to jump out of the truck and hug you because that is what we’ve been asking guys to do the whole time.”
Monday’s events included the start of the financial-management competition, the maintenance-skills event, security force’s combat-weapons event and the aerial port team’s pallet build-up and 10K forklift driving course.
The financial management competition is the first event of its kind in rodeo history. Members were placed in a simulated deployment zone and had to run through more than 200 scenarios over their four days of competition.
Bob Oldham, chief of public affairs, was proud enough of the maintenance team to post a photo of the intact egg the team didn’t knock over when it was backing up a tow vehicle.
Despite a light drizzle, the pride of mayors Gary Fletcher of Jacksonville, Bill Cypert of Cabot and former Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim wasn’t dampened as they watched the aerial-port team not spill a drop of water placed on a barrier they had to forklift through a curvy course.
The second part of the event also had one Airman drive the forklift course backwards while carrying a pallet.
Although many events kicked off on Monday, the opening ceremony for the Rodeo was Sunday morning and Team Little Rock competed in Fit-to-Fight, a physical-fitness challenge, that afternoon.
Theme music from the western show “Bonanza” played at the beginning of the opening ceremony for the 21st Rodeo.
Gen. Raymond Johns, Air Mobility commander, passed teams in review. He said during the ceremony, “We are part of a grand ballet, a magnificent machine that brings hope…what we do isn’t about us, we serve others…this week is about you…giddy up, yippee-ki-yay.”
Screams and hoots, accompanied by red faces cheering wildly and chanting Team Little Rock’s name, “Black Knights,” spurred the Fight-to-Fit to keep pushing themselves to do as many pushups, sit-ups and run a 1.5-mile course as fast as they could.
The first competition of the Rodeo was immediate and had to do with arrival at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., at a specific time Saturday morning.
Every second counted; points were deducted for every second before or after a crew’s set landing time.
The 19th’s H-model was only two seconds off, followed by the newer J-model, which was 40 seconds off. The 314th’s E-model, the oldest plane being used at this year’s rodeo, was only a few seconds early.
The 314th’s J-model broke down Saturday morning and was delayed for a day in Colorado Springs, where all four LRAFB planes had landed for a layover Friday evening.
Baby powder floated in the air above the three airmen taking a defiant pose Monday. Two of them fell like pins at a bowling alley as one made a strike with an invisible ball Tuesday.
This is how the finance team for Little Rock Air Force Base began the first two days of the first-ever Air Mobility Rodeo competition where it could demonstrate its skills. Each day started with an opening where every team could show how pumped up it was by performing skits as members came down an aisle between rows of chairs to take a seat.
LRAFB Staff Sgts. Jacob Taylor of Jacksonville, Amber Hunt of Cabot and Technical Sgt. Adam Rohrer were placed in a simulated deployment zone this week to play out more than 200 scenarios.
The financial-management competition is one of the few events that will be held all day almost every day of the weeklong Rodeo and it is not all about signing checks. The team members have worked in the finance building at LRAFB, in nearby offices, for the past few years, and they agree team cohesiveness is their greatest strength.
The “three blind mice” won second place in military skills on Monday and Tuesday. The team’s name was chosen randomly in an effort to be unique in choosing one that didn’t relate to money, like the names of most of the other teams.
Military skills is one category of the competition and those categories don’t indicate who is ahead overall because each category earns a team a different amount of points for its total score. Competitors don’t know how much each category is worth.
Taylor is the only team member who has been deployed before.
He was deployed to United Arab Emirates. Taylor said the competition is more diverse because the team addresses a greater variety of situations in the simulated zone than someone deployed would see.
For Hunt, who works in customer service at the LRAFB finance office, her job is really about helping people, whether they notice or not, and she, “the organized one” of the team, works hard every day to make sure things are in order.
Looking to teammate Taylor for help in making the sentiment into a complete sentence, he said it best.
“You never know who you’re helping. You sometimes get that genuinely appreciative person,” Taylor said.
Hunt said most of the time she sees people who are unhappy because they don’t get people coming in to thank them for getting a paycheck on time.
She says as long as she appears to be trying to help, customers usually calm down, but sometimes they assume finance personnel are uncaring or have easy jobs.
“We’re there even when people don’t think we are. Just because the office is closed, that doesn’t mean we’re not working behind the doors,” Hunt said.
She enlisted as an open-general airman and was placed in the finance department. Taylor is the only one of the group who actively sought out the role by getting a degree in finance before joining the Air Force.
He had planned to teach but chose finance because teaching “fell through” and he never thought of going into the military at all, but there wasn’t a market for finance professionals in his “po-dunk” hometown of 90 people.
Taylor enjoys it though, identifying those in the profession as “unsung heroes” and explaining how important finance is to how a base operates.
Taylor and Rohrer work as budget analysts at LRAFB. Taylor, “the creative one,” according to Hunt, said he likes the job because he gets to see the big picture of what the Air Force is doing and make sure taxpayer dollars are “spent legally and put in the right direction.”
Together, the two budget analysts handle about 80 percent of the base’s total budget.
Rohrer was ordered to cross train into the finance department. When he enlisted he worked with ammo, but he said he’s better suited to finance.
“The brain,” according to Hunt, “is more dangerous with a keyboard than with a wrench.”
Surrounded by his team and using the U.S. flag from the uniform of Col. Mike Minihan, 19th Airlift Wing commander, Staff Sgt. Carl Hook swore for the second time to defend his country and its Constitution.
Hook signed up for another four years.
Hook, the security forces team captain for Air Mobility Rodeo 2011, had waited to re-enlist until Tuesday, when his team claimed victory, a score of 371 out of 400, in the combat- tactics event.
Pumped up after the event, he said he felt that something would go wrong with the mission scenario the team was given. They were told to deliver supplies for a relief effort in a combat zone to a USAID worker.
The enemies in the scenario opened fire on the team as soon as they shook hands with the worker they were to deliver the goods to. The worker in the simulation was injured and the team had to get him out and to a safe zone.
Hook said the 29 points were minimal deductions and he was pleased with the results, crediting communication during the mission by team members as the key to their success.
Hook told Minihan the day Team Little Rock arrived at Joint Base Lewis-McChord that he wanted to reenlist at rodeo because “it was out of the ordinary.”
He said the commander has been joking around since then about Hook doing it right away.
He competed in Rodeo 2007 and has been deployed three times since he first enlisted on Aug. 23, 2005. Each deployment lasted seven months.
One of Hook’s best friends, Senior Airman Timothy Collar, is convinced he will be a “lifer” and chief or commander in the future.
Although Hook says that would be nice, he is pleasantly humble about his potential.
In fact, he joined security forces knowing they don’t get as much recognition as other groups in the Air Force, but he believes they have one of the most important jobs in the military. That job is keeping people safe.
Hook said he loves the support he’s seen from the Jacksonville community and he’d like to stay there with his unit of about 240.
He hugged nearly everyone present at the seemingly impromptu enlistment ceremony at one of the ranges on base.
Hook shared that everyone in the unit knows each other because they work together and have been deployed together. He agreed when another of his team said that the Air Force is different in that you don’t forget your coworkers when you go home after work; they’re like your family.
Hook said one of the reasons he loves working in his security forces unit is that it has “the biggest comradery of any in the Air Force.” Hook’s team will face the Rodeo’s first-ever marksmanship event tomorrow. He’s looking forward to showing what teamwork can do.