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Team McConnell building on early success at Rodeo 2009

Team McConnell’s Security Forces Team members yell ‘Airpower!’ before loading into a vehicle during a combat tactics competition at Rodeo 2009. The event challenges four-person fire teams on small team tactics, self-aid buddy care, communication, observation and reaction to fire/explosive attack skills. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Chyrece Campbell)

Team McConnell’s Security Forces Team members yell ‘Airpower!’ before loading into a vehicle during a combat tactics competition at Rodeo 2009. The event challenges four-person fire teams on small team tactics, self-aid buddy care, communication, observation and reaction to fire/explosive attack skills. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Chyrece Campbell)

MCCHORD AFB, Wash. -- Tech. Sgt. Billy Martin and Master Sgt. Al Ryder, 931st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, review technical orders for properly removing an accumulator.  Sergeant Ryder is the team chief for Team McConnell’s RODEO maintenance team.  The RODEO maintenance competition consists of three separate maintenance ground events: preflight inspection, aircraft refueling and basic post flight. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Chyrece Campbell)

MCCHORD AFB, Wash. -- Tech. Sgt. Billy Martin and Master Sgt. Al Ryder, 931st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, review technical orders for properly removing an accumulator. Sergeant Ryder is the team chief for Team McConnell’s RODEO maintenance team. The RODEO maintenance competition consists of three separate maintenance ground events: preflight inspection, aircraft refueling and basic post flight. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Chyrece Campbell)

MCCHORD AFB, Wash. -- Senior Airman Nathan Shelley, 931st Military Support Flight, performs a check of his equipment to ensure he has all the proper gear needed for the RODEO tactics competition.  Team McConnell’s security forces members’ will compete in three of the four different security forces RODEO events: combat tactics, combat endurance and weapons. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Chyrece Campbell)

MCCHORD AFB, Wash. -- Senior Airman Nathan Shelley, 931st Military Support Flight, performs a check of his equipment to ensure he has all the proper gear needed for the RODEO tactics competition. Team McConnell’s security forces members’ will compete in three of the four different security forces RODEO events: combat tactics, combat endurance and weapons. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Chyrece Campbell)

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- Team McConnell members wasted no time making their presence known at Air Mobility Command's Rodeo 2009.

The team found itself just one point shy of the top score following a preflight inspection of its KC-135 Stratotanker Sunday morning, less than 24 hours after arriving at McChord AFB, Wash., for the biennial competition.

The team's KC-135 maintainers earned 558 out of a possible 600 points during the inspection. A team from Altus AFB, Okla., scored 559. Most scores were in the 350 to 375 range.

"Anything over 500 is winnable stuff," Master Sgt. Al Ryder, a four-time Rodeo veteran, said.

Sergeant Ryder is one of eight Reservists from the 931st Air Refueling Group to be part of the first ever total-force team to represent McConnell AFB at a Rodeo competition. His other team members are assigned to the 22nd Air Refueling Wing, the 931st's active-duty host unit at McConnell.

The team arrived at McChord AFB late Saturday morning. Their KC-135, they soon learned, needed to be ready for the preflight inspection by 7 a.m. Sunday morning.

"We landed, started working and haven't stopped yet," Sergeant Ryder said via telephone from McChord.

It's all or nothing at Rodeo competitions. There are no second or third place trophies. Points earned from different competitions throughout the seven-day event are added together to determine who is the best.

Spirits were high after the preflight score, Sergeant Ryder said, because his maintainers knew the one point didn't matter in the big Rodeo picture. And unlike many other maintenance teams, his teamed gained the maximum points for no safety violations or problems with their maintenance paperwork.

Still, Sergeant Ryder summed up the atmosphere at this year's competition in one word: "stressful." A Rodeo umpire digging up greasy bits of debris, probably hidden away in an aircraft for decades, can be the difference maker, as was the case for Team McConnell on Sunday.

The team's flyers were scheduled to test their tankers skills in the air for the first time late Monday night. Sergeant Ryder's team was expecting to receive the aircraft back for maintenance at 3:45 a.m. Tuesday.

Also representing the 931st ARG at Rodeo is Senior Airman Nathaniel Shelley, who is teamed up with 22nd ARW Airmen for Security Forces competitions. His team's events include combat tactics, a combat endurance course and combat weapons demonstrations.

More than 100 teams and 2,500 people from the Air Force, and Air Force Reserve, as well as allied nations, were expected to participate in Rodeo 2009. The scale of this year's competition, Sergeant Ryder said, surpasses all the Rodeos he attended before.

"It's a big deal," he said. "It's like a concert over here."

Military and civilian media representatives from all over the world are at Rodeo 2009 covering the highly-publicized competitions. Many Rodeo-related stories and photos are available at AMC's web site.