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June 30, 1998
ELMENDORF RODEO TEAM RETURNS WITH TOP HONORS
By Master Sgt. Darla J. Ernst
ELMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE, ALASKA -- The C-130 that carried the Elmendorf Rodeo '98 team home Saturday was a little heavier than when it left for McChord Air Force Base, Wash., July 18.
After five intense days of competition against 63 teams and 2,000 people, the Elmendorf team proudly carried home six trophies, including the overall Best Air Mobility Wing, Rodeo's top honor. Rodeo is a biennial competition that tests crew's ability to put the right load in the right place at the right time. It showcases airdrop, air refueling, aeromedical evacuation, aerial port events, short-field landings, and aircraft maintenance.
"This is a first for Elmendorf," said Maj. Neil Friedli, team chief of the 23-man team. "This team really put their hearts into this competition, and the amount of awards they brought home proves it." In addition to the Best Air Mobility Wing, other awards included Best Shortfield Landing Aircrew, Best Airdrop Crew, Best Airdrop Wing, Best C-130 Aircrew and Best C-130 Wing.
Col. Scott Gration, 3 wing commander, was on-hand as the awards were announced June 27 in a rowdy ceremony in a packed McChord hangar. "I felt it was important to be there, whether we came in first or last," said Gration, who flew home with the winning team. "Airlift is such an important part of our mission; having the team win was just gravy."
"All these awards are a tribute to the maturity, professionalism and camaraderie of this team and the 3 Wing," he said. "This is just another example that the 3 Wing is a wing of winners."
The competition pitted teams from around the world against each other in several events,. The aircrew flew three consecutive days, performing a different airdrop mission each day. Loads included a heavy equipment drop, container delivery system and a personnel drop. During the daily flights, the aircrew was judged on its ability to identify and turn accurately on seven landmarks at precisely the scheduled time. For all three drops, Elmendorf performed perfectly, hitting every turn point and gaining maximum points for that category. They also scored perfectly for safety, takeoffs, altitude and avoiding threats.
The aircrew also performed three shortfield landings, attempting to land smoothly and accurately in a 400-foot zone, something Alaska's training environment prepared them well for. "Many of the long range radar sites we resupply require us to land on short unimproved airstrips," said Friedli.
Maintenance also played a key role in the team's awards. The maintainers leaped several obstacles to keep the aircraft ready to fly, including a blown main landing gear tire and a sheered wing tension bolt just days before the competition began. Rodeo umpires evaluated the maintenance team on a pre-flight inspection, a post-flight inspection, a refueling, and observed them daily for safety and procedures.
"I have the utmost respect and appreciation for these maintainers," said Friedli. "It just doesn't happen without these guys." The maintainers scored a perfect 100 on each of their four daily observation scores and for a refueling, and garnered 550 points out of 600 for its preflight inspection and finished in the top third for the postflight inspection.
"These guy's performance has been outstanding," said Master Sgt. John Kimball, maintenance team chief. "Everyone kept their focus; I just pointed them in the right direction, and they ran with it."
Four members of the 3 Transportation Squadron competed against 34 other teams for Best Aerial Port Team. While a little disappointed with some of their scores in the joint inspection, engine on/offload, and material handling competitions, the team anxiously awaited its chance to prove their mettle on the confidence course, which was canceled twice because of wet weather.
"We ran three to five miles daily since early May preparing for the course," said Tech. Sgt. Greg Cannon. The team also visited McChord for a week in June and ran the 23-obstacle course every day. The weather finally broke, and the team ran the course just hours before the awards ceremony. With the rest of the 3 Wing team cheering them on, they completed the grueling course in 5 minutes, 10 seconds, just 25 seconds short of the fastest time.
"Their consistently high scores definitely helped us for the overall trophy," said Friedli.
While taking home the overall trophy is every team's goal, Rodeo is also a chance to build camaraderie and compare notes with airlifters from around the world, according to Friedli. This year's competition featured teams from all corners of the earth including Canada, Spain, Great Britian, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, France, Belgium, Brazil and the United States.
But when the awards were announced, there was no doubt which corner of the earth the trophies were headed. The world champion team touched down at Elmendorf Saturday, greeted by cheers from family and friends. They carried home much more than the six trophies; they brought with them the pride that comes from knowing you competed against the best and won.
June 26, 1998
ELMENDORF RODEO TEAM ANXIOUSLY AWAITS AWARDS CEREMONY
By Master Sgt. Darla J. Ernst
McCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, WASH. -- With most of the Rodeo '98 competition behind them, the Elmendorf team has a lot to be proud of.
Although awards aren't announced until Friday, scores released Wednesday showed Elmendorf as one of the top crews in shortfield landings. "If we win it, that will be a first for Elmendorf," said Maj. Neil Friedli, team chief. The aircrew snatched 1,716 of a possible 1,950 points for three separate landings. Points are awarded for taking off at proper airspeed, a smooth approach, and landing accuracy within a 400-foot landing zone.
"Consistency was the key," said Capt. Rick Wells, co-pilot. "Some of the teams had great scores one day, but then blew it the next. Our scores were consistently high." Out of 650 points each day, the crew received 600, 554 and 562.
Elmendorf is also ranked at the top for Best C-130 Aircrew, but a mask of some of the scores will keep them in suspense until the 2:30 p.m. ceremony Friday. "Waiting is the hardest part," said pilot Capt. Bob Price. The top aircrew award will go to the team who accumulated the most points over three daily airdrop events. The crews dropped heavy equipment, container delivery systems and personnel.
During the daily flights, the aircrew was judged on its ability to identify and turn accurately on seven landmarks at precisely the scheduled time. For all three drops, Elmendorf performed perfectly, hitting every turn point and gaining maximum points for that category. They also scored perfectly for safety, takeoffs, altitude and avoiding threats. Their container delivery system drop score beat out the other 18 teams, and their heavy equipment drop was in the top eight. The personnel drop score is being withheld pending the awards ceremony, and will be the decider for the top aircrew award.
Consistently, judges complimented the Elmendorf team for its ability to work so well together in the cockpit. "That's a real tribute to the entire crew," said Friedle. The maintenance team is also in the hunt for Best C-130 Maintenance Team. The team has leaped several obstacles, including acquiring and replacing a sheared wing tension bolt and a main landing gear tire.
"I have the utmost respect and appreciation for these maintainers," said Friedli. "It just doesn't happen without these guys." The maintainers have scored a perfect 100 on each of their three daily observation scores and for a refueling, and garnered 550 points out of 600 for its preflight inspection. The postflight inspection scores are being withheld until the awards, making the top maintenance team trophy anyone's guess, with 3 Wing in contention for a top spot. "These guy's performance has been outstanding," said Master Sgt. John Kimball, maintenance team chief. "Everyone kept their focus; I just pointed them in the right direction, and they ran with it."
Four members of the 3 Transportation Squadron competed against 34 other teams for Best Aerial Port Team. While a little disappointed with some of their scores in the joint inspection, engine on/offload, and material handling competitions, the team is anxious to prove their mettle on the confidence course, which was canceled Wednesday because of wet weather. It's rescheduled for Friday morning, if the weather cooperates. If rain causes another cancellation, there may be no other time to hold the event prior to the closing ceremonies Friday.
"We've been running three to five miles daily since early May preparing for this," said Tech. Sgt. Greg Cannon. The team also visited McChord for a week in June and ran the 23-obstacle course every day. "We really hope we get to chance to compete," he said.
Rodeo has been a great opportunity to build camaraderie and to interact with other countries and units performing similar missions around the world, according to Friedli. "Competing against the best airlifters in the world has been a real honor," he said.
And to win the competition would not only mean bringing home trophies to Elmendorf. The team would also carry home bragging rights to being the best in the world.
June 23, 1998
CANADIANS SAVE ALASKANS DAY
By Master Sgt. Darla J. Ernst
McCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, WASH. -- International cooperation took on new meaning for the 3rd Wing team competing in Rodeo '98.
After traveling 1,500 miles from Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, a one-inch gash in a main landing gear tire of a C-130 threatened to keep the Alaskans from competing. After a desperate search by the Elmendorf team, the Canadians came to the rescue, giving up one of their two spare tires.
"It was getting down to crunch time Sunday, and we were getting a little nervous," said Elmendorf team chief Maj. Neil Friedli. "The Canadians really came through for us." Although the Belgians offered their tire, it had the wrong style rim. Many of the other teams didn't bring tires, or if they did, brought only one.
"We didn't want to put any of the other competitors in a bad spot by taking their only tire," said Tech. Sgt. Ed "Gil" Guilliams, Elmendorf crew chief.
For the Canadians, it was just the neighborly thing to do, even though the teams are competing against each other.
"What's the competition if they can't fly?" asked Sgt. Claude Paquette, aviation technician for the 8th Air Maintenance Squadron from Trenton, Ontario. "We always deploy with a lot of spare parts," he added. "Our aircraft are old and kind of the ugly ducklings, but so far, this one has been very reliable."
So reliable, that the team has given out more spare parts than they're using, according to Canadian Warrant Officer Karl Jensen. In addition to the Elmendorf team, Canada has supplied parts to teams from Britian, Saudi Arabia and Belgium.
The size of a C-130 tire prevented Elmendorf from bringing their own spare.
"We had four new "skins" before coming," said Guilliams. "We had a lot of people and equipment to bring, and just couldn't justify the space for a tire." A tire usually lasts nine to 12 months, according to Guilliams, and this one was fairly new.
The team departed Elmendorf June 18 for a scheduled stop at Fairchild AFB, Wash, where the tire may have gotten its fatal wound. "We towed the aircraft through some taxiway construction to get to a hangar," said Guilliams. "We think we picked up a rock that caused the puncture when we landed at McChord."
The aircraft landed at McChord Saturday without incident, and maintenance discovered the faulty tire. The search was on, and the maintenance crew spent Saturday and Sunday trying to solve their dilemma. The tire from the Canadians ended their search, but not the work.
"There was a lot of additional paperwork that had to be tracked down," said Master Sgt. John Kimball, maintenance chief for the team. "We had to make sure the inspection date was acceptable under our regulations," he said.
To add more international flavor to the stew, the Egyptian Air Force lent the team a tire dolly to transport the tire, and a team from Little Rock AFB, Ark., threw in a vehicle to tow the dolly.
"I don't think you'll find any team at this competition who is selfish and only here to win," Guilliams said. "The spirit of competition and cooperation is tremendous."
With a little help from their international friends, the Alaskan aircrew was able to make its 8:10 a.m. takeoff time Monday morning for its first flight of Rodeo '98.
June 20, 1998
RODEO MAINTENANCE GETTING THE JOB DONE
By Master Sgt. Darla J. Ernst
A sheered bolt on the wing of a C-130 sent the Elmendorf Rodeo maintenance team into overtime to prepare for the team's participation in Rodeo '98, a biennial airlift competition that brings together 75 teams and 2,500 people from air mobility forces around the world.
The 24-man Rodeo team left Alaska June 18 for a two-day layover at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., before making its timed arrival into McChord AFB for the competition June 20. During a maintenance thru-flight inspection, the maintainers found a sheered bolt that would need to be replaced before flying. The clock was ticking in order to make their scheduled arrival time at McChord -- 12:45, June 20.
"The layover at Fairchild was designed to give the team a chance to settle down, have a little time to think through their part of the competition and go into McChord fresh," said Maj. Neil Friedli, Rodeo team chief. It would be a much-needed break for the 517 Airlift Squadron maintainers, whose shifts have been long for several months preparing for Rodeo.
But what happened instead was two more days of 14-hour shifts for the ten-man maintenance team, making sure the aircraft was in top shape.
While replacing a bolt sounds like a quick fix, in reality, it required getting the part from Elmendorf to Fairchild, defueling the aircraft, "no-loading" the wing to relieve the tension on the bolt, getting the old part out and the new one in, and refueling the C-130. In all, it took approximately 58 manhours of work, according to Master Sgt. John Kimball, Rodeo maintenance chief. "These maintainers worked really hard to make sure the plane would be airborne on schedule; it's that kind of dedication that got each of them selected for the Rodeo team," he said.
"This competition doesn't happen without these maintenance troops," said Friedli. "They're the ones behind the scenes before and after the aircraft flies, a lot of times not in the limelight but definitely deserving of praise."
While Elmendorf's maintenance scrambled to get the aircraft fixed, fellow maintainers from Fairchild pitched in by supplying tools and the logistics of getting around the base, according to Kimball. "Their help was definitely needed and appreciated," he said. "It made the fix possible."
In the competition, judges observe and score the maintainers daily. Scored maintenance events include aircraft preflight, postflight inspection, aircraft fuel service operation and daily observations.
With the competition now in full swing, the Elmendorf team is focused on representing the wing and Pacific Air Forces well, but future references to this year's Rodeo competition might include the phrase, "getting there was half the fun."
By Master Sgt. Darla J. Ernst|
3rd Wing Public Affairs
A 3rd Wing team comprised of members of the 517 Airlift Squadron and the 3 Transportation Squadron left Thursday for McChord AFB, Wash., to compete in Rodeo '98, a biennial airlift competition that brings together 75 teams and 2,500 people from air mobility forces around the world. The 517 AS will fly the C-130 aircraft in the competition.
Rodeo tests the crew's ability to put the right load in the right place at the right time. It showcases airdrop, air refueling, aeromedical evacuation, security forces competition, short-field landings and related ground operations, and provides an opportunity for the best aerial refuelers and airlifters to demonstrate capabilities, improve procedures, compare notes, and enhance standardization for worldwide operations.
"Rodeo allows us to put to the test the skills we hone everyday at Elmendorf," said Maj. Neil Friedli, mission commander for the team. "We're looking forward to competing with the best airlifters from around the world."
The 24-member Elmendorf team was hand-selected, with the aircrews having a competition of its own. The top three crews had a "fly off" using the same rules and competitions used in Rodeo. The winning team earned the honor to represent the wing at the competition.
The daily mission of the 517 AS gives it a competitive edge, according to Friedli. The squadron conducts resupply missions to long-range radar sites three to five times a week. Many of the sites have dirt runways. "Landing on short, primitive runways regularly should help us in the shortfield landing competition," he said. In that event, aircrews are tested on their ability to land on short airfields. Points are awarded for taking off at proper airspeed, a smooth approach, and landing accuracy within a 400-foot landing zone.
The Elmendorf Team will also be competing in the following areas:
While the team's ultimate goal is to bring back the trophy to Elmendorf, the competition is also an opportunity to interact with other countries and units performing similar missions around the world, said Friedli.
"Everyone there will be the best of the best," he said. "It's a great chance to share knowledge with other teams, to maybe even bring back information to incorporate into our policies and procedures here, and to share lessons we've learned about doing the mission in Alaska's arctic environment," Friedli said. Awards will be announced June 26 and the team returns June 27.