Tuesday, August 02, 2011

TOP STORY >> Rodeo winners show true grit

Leader staff writer

commander, said at the social, with tongue in cheek, after emphasizing the importance of Team Little Rock beating out other bases worldwide, regardless of which wing claimed victory.

Col. Mark Czelusta, 314th Airlift Wing commander, agreed and thanked the 19th Airlift Wing for all the help it’s given its sister wing.

“We’re enabled by leadership…this is a partner wing that gets it. It’s not about the patch you wear. It’s about the mission,” he added.

Local businesses and communities were also applauded at the social. Supporters included Jacksonville Advertising and Planning Commission, Cabot Advertising and Planning Commission, city of Jacksonville, Sherwood Chamber of Commerce, Arkansas Federal Credit Union, Entergy, First Arkansas Bank and Trust, Golden Corral, Doubletree Hotel, Central Arkansas Water, Texas Roadhouse, Hilton Garden Inn and Diamond Bear.

All the teams at rodeo set up hospitality tents.

Rodeo is the Air Force’s and Air Mobility Command’s premier air-mobility competition. The competition, held last week at McChord Air Force Base, Wash., draws the “best of the best” from air forces around the world.

LRAFB was pitted against more than 40 teams and 2,500 people from U.S. Air Force, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard and several foreign countries that participated in the events.

Participants aren’t the only ones who received a warm thank you from those who attended the social at Southern Oaks Country Club in Jacksonville.

At the closing ceremonies, it was announced that about 100 civic leaders had attended rodeo to cheer on the competing teams. LRAFB boasted about 10 of those, including rodeo veterans and first-time attendees.

Former Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim has attended rodeo since he became mayor in 1987, missing only one or two, he said.

“They’re (rodeos) all the same, but different, too. You do the same events, but different things happen…I think anytime the Army is active on two or three warfronts, these people train. This (rodeo) shows our people can deliver. It (rodeo) gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of generals and colonels who can help us (the community).”

This was Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher’s first rodeo, and he was awed by it.

“Some people have to turn on the television to see heroes. We live among them,” he said. “It (rodeo) makes you realize this country is in good hands concerning the military…The best thing about this is that every city likes to brag about its assets. The greatest asset we have is our people. When you see our military compete not only nationally but internationally, it gives you a great sense of pride.”

Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert said what he enjoyed at his first rodeo was the physical-fitness challenges.

“There were several things that impressed me. First and foremost is the competitive spirit,” he added.

Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) attended two rodeos while he was the Cabot mayor. He said he understood his third more because he’d been to the competition before.

Williams added that he could tell budget cutbacks had been made this year because some of the simulations were less realistic and obstacle courses were less complex.

He also said the best part of his trip was finding out that the 314th’s E-model, the oldest C-130 at rodeo, had earned a perfect 600 out of 600 on an inspection.

Rep. Jane English (R-North Little Rock) said she had learned a lot from attending her first rodeo, including the importance of teamwork.

“No matter what team you were on, everyone was pulling for everyone,” she said.