A C -17 from McChord AFB takes off prior to the arrival of the international teams for AMC Rodeo 2007. Rodeo 2007 hosted by Air Mobility Command, is a readiness competition of U.S. and international mobility air forces. It focuses on improving warfighting capabilities and support of the Global War on Terrorism.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman Jonathan Olds)
A record-breaking international presence marks this year’s Air Mobility Command Rodeo, underway now through July 27 at McChord Air Force Base.
The last of nine international teams touched down July 17, with observers from 25 additional countries arriving by the end of the week. In total, 296 international guests will join American competitors at the event, surpassing the previous record for international participation set in 1994.
“We’re just delighted that they’ve all been able to come,” said Bruce Balbin, AMC international relations advisor. “We realize it’s a strain because most of them are involved in fighting the Global War on Terror with us. But it shows the importance of Rodeo, the importance of what we’re trying to do with relationship building, and the importance of camaraderie.”
Fresh faces and old hands alike fill the roster at this year’s Rodeo. Teams from the United Arab Emirates and the Netherlands will compete for the first time at the event. Meanwhile, the event’s longest running international competitor, Germany, will return for the fourteenth time. Germany has participated in Rodeo since 1980, the first year international teams were invited to enter the competition.
Saudi Arabia, one of four Middle Eastern countries to compete this year, is participating in its fifth Rodeo.
“It is a great opportunity to strengthen the relationship between all nationalities, most importantly with the U.S.,” said Col. Muhammed Al Gabbas, Saudi Arabia’s team commander.
Although his team landed here in their C-130H Hercules only a day earlier, the relationship building was already under way. Capt. Duane Richardson, an active duty C-17 pilot assigned to the 7th Airlift Squadron, was eager to help get the Saudis become comfortable in their tent at the staging area.
“What a way to get introduced to Rodeo – as a partner with an international team,” he said regarding his duties for his first Rodeo. Each international team is assigned one host unit from McChord Air Force Base, and Captain Richardson’s squadron was picked to host the Saudis.
“The fact that I’ve been to Saudi Arabia numerous times on deployment, it makes me especially interested to host them and return the hospitality,” he said.
Aside from forging bonds among international competitors, Rodeo serves as a training opportunity for all countries involved. During and after the 2005 Rodeo, the Pakistani Air Force worked with U.S. pilots to hone their C-130 airdrop skills and reassess their capabilities. They demonstrated the need for these heightened skills later that year when they airdropped supplies after earthquakes ravaged their country.
“Even though they didn’t get the trophy that year, they really did win,” said Master Sgt. Aubrey Robertson, Rodeo director of international teams.
This is the fifth Rodeo Sergeant Robertson has participated in, helping international teams each time. Throughout the years, he has watched the level of participation continue to increase.
“This is the largest group of international attendees I’ve seen. I think a lot of it has to do with the recruitment we did this year,” he said.
Sergeant Robertson and fellow team member Master Sergeant LaDonna Couthran spent the last year and a half recruiting teams for this year’s competition. The most successful method they used was to attend two aircraft maintenance conventions held in Atlanta, where all the two had to do was show a short video to capture the interest of the international aircrews in attendance.
“You say ‘Rodeo’ and you get a lot of strange looks, as some people aren’t too familiar with it. But after we show a video and they started seeing all the flying parts of the competition, they were really into it and wanted to know how to sign up,” Sergeant Couthran said.
Besides the opportunity to help foster international relations and perfect combat airlift skills, the competitive nature of Rodeo captured in Sergeant Couthran’s video also appealed to prospective competitors.
“That’s why we came – to be part of the challenge,” Col. Al Gabbas said with a smile.
The best international team will be awarded the Air Commodore David F.L. Edwards trophy at closing ceremonies here July 27.