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MacDill Rodeo team brings home trophy again!

by Staff Sgt. Randy Redman
Thunderbolt editor
Photo by Tech. Sgt. Doug Lingefelt

The returning champions show off multiple trophies Team MacDill won at the Rodeo competition at the return celebration in Hangar 3 Saturday. They won Best Air Mobility Wing, Best KC-135 Wing and Best KC-135 Cargo Loading Crew.

Photo by Tech. Sgt. Doug Lingefelt

As the Rodeo team returns from the competition at McChord AFB, Wash., Saturday, two fire trucks from the 6th Civil Engineer Squadron greet the team with a dual cascade. This year’s Rodeo was the first competition to be held since the worldwide operations tempo increase due to the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

Photo by Tech. Sgt. Doug Lingefelt

Col. Irv Lee, 6th Mission Support Group commander, along with Col. Charles Mackett, 6th Medical Group commander, Col. David Norsworthy, 6th maintenance Group commander, and Col. Don Halpin, 6th AMW vice commander, stand ready with champagne to toast the Rodeo 2005 champions when they disembark the plane.

Courtesy photo

Col. Maggie Woodward, 6th Air Mobility Wing commander, triumphantly hoists the Rodeo trophy at the awards ceremony. The ceremony was broadcast live to each of the AMC bases that competed so those who could not attend could see the winner as it was announced.

Courtesy photo

The Rodeo team was broken down into different responsibilities for everyone in attendance. The Operations crew (from left to right) was Tech. Sgt. Tom Morrison, Maj. Carey Efferson, Capt. Kevin Gaeu, Maj Oliver Leeds and Master Sgt. Randy Bishop. Their portion of Rodeo included arrival time, two air refueling missions and cargo loading.

Courtesy photo

The Maintenance crew included (back row from the left) Senior Airman Ron Campbell, Staff Sgt. Brian Marple, Staff Sgt. Dru Remsburg, Master Sgt. Tom Hennessy, Senior Airman Lloyd Estes (middle row) Tech. Sgt. Dwight Booker, Staff Sgt. John Cantwell, 1st Lt. Randy Harvey, Tech. Sgt. J.J. Johnson and (front row) Senior Airman Eric Dreibelbis. They took care of arrival score, preflight, postflight, refueling and daily observations.

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The Security Forces team was comprised of (from left) Senior Airman Clifton Taylor, Staff Sgt. Sherwin Severin and Airman 1st Class Joshua Wargo. They tackled combat tactics, the combat endurance course and combat weapons. There also was a Fit to Fight team. Three members were selected to complete the Air Force fitness test, in which Capt. Kevin Gaeu achieved a perfect score of 100!

The 6th Air Mobility Wing was named Best of the Best at Rodeo 2005, the second consecutive win for team MacDill. The Rodeo is Air Mobility Command’s premier international mobility competition, hosted June 19 to 24 at McChord Air Force Base, Wash. The event focuses on improving the Air Force’s worldwide air mobility forces’ professional core abilities.

Rodeo showcases airdrop, air refueling, aeromedical evacuation, security forces competition, short field landings, maintenance and related ground operations, and provides an opportunity for the world’s best aerial refuelers and airlifters to demonstrate capabilities, improve procedures, compare notes, and enhance standardization for worldwide operations. Team MacDill also brought home top honors in three other categories this year including Best KC-135 Aircrew, Best KC-135 Wing and Best KC-135 Cargo Loading Crew. The last competition was held at Pope AFB, N.C., in 2000.

“Because there has been such a long gap between competitions, none of us (from MacDill’s team) had ever competed. There were just a lot of stories about how MacDill won it last time,” said Maj. Oliver Leeds, 6th Operations Group Standards and Evaluations office and Rodeo aircrew commander. “We got into this not really knowing what it was all about; although we all felt the need to defend that trophy.”

Major Leeds’ portion of Rodeo focused mainly on the flying competition, which refueling another aircraft with a very small margin for error. He said the flight crew from MacDill scored themselves by Rodeo standards when they were first picked to compete.

“It was very humbling... Out of 2,000 possible points, we scored ourselves at exactly zero,” he said. “It took two months to get to the level of accuracy we needed to compete at Rodeo.”

Senior Airman Eric Dreibelbis, 6th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, was part of the crew responsible for ensuring the Rodeo aircraft was ready to fly by performing the pre-flight inspection, fueling the jet and making sure the aircraft forms were signed off correctly. He said the maintenance team began extensive training months ago and put in many long workdays.

“We’ve trained since April. First going through all of our crew and giving everyone a specific job. Each person on our ten-man crew was put under a magnifying glass,” he recalled. “Then we worked 12 to 14 hour days for... I don’t even know how many days... a lot.”

Staff Sgt. Sherwin Severin, 6th Security Forces Squadron boat patrolman, competed in the security forces portion of the competition, which included combat tactics, combat weapons and a combat endurance course.

“We trained for Rodeo by spending a lot of time at the range, in the gym and running for about a month and a half, he said, adding that practice was important but teamwork was the key to taking home the overall trophy. “Without teamwork, you might win a medal or two but you will not win the whole competition.”

Senior Airman Dreibelbis agreed, saying that his teammates have grown into more than just work associates.

“The guys that I work with are pretty much a family now. If we weren’t so close, we probably would have broken down. We could see when someone was down and needed to be motivated, and we knew how to do that,” he said.

Each of the team members said bringing the trophy back to MacDill was no easy task and that their competitors were some of the best in the world.

“When we got there, they told us there were teams out there gunning for us since we were the reigning champions,” said Senior Airman Dreibelbis. “It really brought it home that we had to cross our Ts and dot our Is.”

“We’re a totally different team than the one that brought home the trophy in 2000 and we had a lot to live up to,” said Sergeant Severin. “We proved we were just as good... maybe better.”

True to form, the wing leadership arranged for a world-class reception to welcome home the champions Saturday. Two fire trucks greeted the returning team with dual cascades on the flight line and patrol cars provided an escort with sirens blaring and lights running to the jet’s parking space. There was also a crowd waiting with a champagne toast in front of Hangar 3.

Family members and coworkers congratulated the winning Rodeo team while “We are the Champions” blared in the background. The large crowd had also signed team photos for each Rodeo member before they arrived. After Col. Maggie Woodward, 6th AMW commander, explained to a buzzing hangar of people how proud she was of the team, family members and co workers enjoyed dinner while hearing about the competition.

“We thought we had to retire as generals to get that kind of reception,” said Major Leeds, quickly adding that it the team was honored to have represented the wing. “We all had the time of our lives. I think it will be remembered as the highlight of our careers.”

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