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Transportation Airmen compete in Rodeo 2007

by Staff Sgt. Mark Orders-Woemper
Rodeo 2007 Public Affairs


7/26/2007 - MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. (AFPN) -- With engines blazing, the door slams onto the ground causing man and machine to make a mad dash toward a giant beast with its mouth open, growling, shaking and waiting to devour all in its path. 

This is the scene of one of the biggest competitions for ground crews in Air Mobility Command's Rodeo 2007 being held July 22 to 27 at McChord Air Force Base.

The engines running onload/offload competition, called ERO, is a culmination of all the skills possessed by air transportation Airmen, said Master Sgt. Victor Dorsey, the Rodeo 2007 aerial port competition lead umpire.

The event pits team against team in a race to see who can load and unload a cargo aircraft as fast and safe as possible -- while the engines are still running.

While running up to an aircraft that has not shut down may seem dangerous, Airmen around the globe do this task on a daily basis to keep supplies and troops moving downrange.

"The environment we are trying to duplicate here is that of the real world," said Master Sgt. Jason Eighmey, the Rodeo 2007 ERO event coordinator. "That's why we leave the engines running, just like they do in Iraq and Afghanistan every day."

Even the safety measures during the ERO scenarios are seen as lessons in how to conduct business in real-life situations, Sergeant Dorsey said.

"How we conduct our business here should be no different than how we do it in Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere else," Sergeant Eighmey said. "Safety is paramount in all that we do."

Despite other competitions that test their skills, for aerial port troops, the ERO is their main reason for coming to Rodeo, Sergeant Dorsey said. Rodeo 2007 is a readiness competition of U.S. and international mobility air forces. It focuses on improving war fighting capabilities and support of the war on terrorism.

"Everything we do up until this point, from the cradle to the grave leads up to this point," Sergeant Dorsey said. "Once you load that aircraft up, that's the capstone. We live to load planes."

Not only are the competitors trained to complete EROs in the real world environment, they specifically train just for this competition for several weeks, said Senior Airman Stewart Simpson, an aerial port Airman and reservist from the 315th Airlift Wing at Charleston AFB, S.C.

"We had two days of ERO training a week," he said. "One day was a live ERO, and the other was a static ERO, where we would run through three or four ERO scenarios back-to-back to get into the groove."

Being in top shape is important when competing in an event like the ERO because it is physically demanding , he said. Once the vehicles are loaded onto the aircraft, team members are required to chain them down quickly, which can put a lot of strain on the body.

"Every morning at 7 we would meet at the gym, pool or fitness trail," Airman Simpson said. "Two days a week we were lifting, two days a week we were swimming and we ran the fitness trail."

The competition promotes fitness, fun and camaraderie, and provides a way for team members to learn valuable lessons and skills from others.

"There were a lot of little tips and tricks I learned about things like slinging chains and tying stuff down that I would not have learned had we not participated in the Rodeo," Airman Simpson said.

The ERO competition is the only event that combines both air and ground crews, Sergeant Eighmey said. He also said the level of competition in this event is some of the most intense of the entire Rodeo.

"Everyone has a lot of zeal and passion for this competition," Sergeant Dorsey said. "This is what it's all about."

Master Sgt. Walter O'Brien, the 315th AW aerial port team chief, told what the ERO meant to him and his team.

"After our first live ERO in training, we all came off the aircraft all fired up," Sergeant O'Brien said. "I told my team, 'This is Rodeo; this is what Rodeo is all about.'"

Sprinting out of the roaring beast, the aerial porters look back, and seeing the load door close, they know their mission was a success. Into the belly of the beast and back, they have made a difference.



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