"Blended" team represents McConnell at Rodeo
By Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap, 931st ARG Public Affairs
/ Published June 26, 2009
MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- Some of McConnell AFB's best flyers and maintainers are going to Air Mobility Rodeo 2009 to prove they are a total force team to be reckoned with.
A "blended" group of Air Force Reserve and Regular Air Force Airmen here is preparing for the worldwide readiness competition at McChord AFB, Wash., July 19-25.
The integrated Rodeo team, a first at McConnell, consists of 12 KC-135 Stratotanker maintainers and five KC-135 aircrew members. Master Sgt. Darren Harris, 22nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, is co-leading the maintenance team. There is good reason to believe, he said, that success is waiting for Team McConnell at McChord.
"That's the whole plan," Sergeant Harris said. "We're going there to win, not just to play."
Senior Master Sgt. John Wallman, an Air Force Reserve KC-135 boom operator assigned to the 931st Air Refueling Group, said he volunteered for the Rodeo team because it appealed to his "very competitive" nature.
"I want to see where McConnell stands with the rest of the Air Force," he said. "I think we'll (finish) real well."
More than 100 teams and 2,500 people from the Air Force and allied-nation air forces are expected to participate in this year's Rodeo. The biennial competition tests the many moving parts of military airlift and refueling capabilities. It includes maintenance, aircrew, aerial port, security forces, aeromedical evacuation and physical fitness competitions.
"Rodeo is the 'top gun' of air mobility (challenges)," said Master Sgt. Al Ryder, referring to the prestige of the biennial contest. Nothing tests air mobility people like Rodeo.
Sergeant Ryder speaks from experience. He's a maintenance crew chief supervisor assigned to the 931st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron who has been to four other Rodeos, twice as a competitor and twice as an umpire.
"He just knows everything about the '135," said Tech. Sgt. Erik Louviere, an active-duty jet engine mechanic, about the advantage of integrating experienced reservists like Sergeant Ryder into a Rodeo team with active-duty Airmen.
Knowing what the judges will be looking for, Sergeant Ryder said, "has helped a lot" since his team came together in May. He was asked to head up this year's maintenance team with Sergeant Harris because of his first-hand knowledge of what to expect at the competition. Four other Reserve maintainers from the 931st were also chosen be part of the team.
"A lot of them are quite experienced," said Senior Airman Gilberto Rodriguez-Martinez, an active-duty crew chief, about his Reserve Rodeo teammates. "So they teach us a lot of new things."
The Regular/Reserve mix is working so well, according to Sergeant Ryder, who is confident about his teammates' potential.
"They have what it takes," he said. "I know that...I really believe they will (perform well). They are working hard." (Air Force Reserve Command News Service)