Salutes & Awards

May 11, 2012

304th wins trophies and bragging rights in Truck Rodeo

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Story and photos by Sgt. Tracy Ellingsen
304th Sustainment Brigade
Soldiers participate in a “Dead Battery Push.” Each team had to push a Humvee through an obstacle course, check the oil and count the number of bolts on the undercarriage.
Soldiers participate in a “Dead Battery Push.” Each team had to push a Humvee through an obstacle course, check the oil and count the number of bolts on the undercarriage.

FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. — Thirty-two Soldiers from six companies competed in 11 events for two days with 39 trophies at stake. However, in the end, the only number that mattered was 211.

The 211th Transportation Company, a subordinate unit of the 304th Sustainment Brigade headquartered at March Air Reserve Base, brought home the first place trophy during last weekend’s Truck Rodeo, a skills competition among Army transportation units.

“This is the first time our unit has ever participated in anything like this,” said Spc. Jeff Goforth, a member of the winning team. “We’ve all been truck drivers for years and enjoyed the friendly competition.”

The rodeo pitted driver versus driver, company versus company, and brigade versus brigade as the 304th tried to earn trophies — and bragging rights — over their sister brigade, the 650th Regional Support Group, headquartered in Las Vegas.

The competition began during the evening of May 4, with a written exam focusing on operation and maintenance of the Army’s workhorse, the High Mobility Multi-Wheeled Vehicle, commonly referred to as the Humvee. At the conclusion of the written exam, each four-man team was asked to come up with a team name. Some of the favorite names chosen included the Misfits, who came in eighth place; Team Hot Sauce, who finished fourth; and Team Edward, who sparkled their way to a third-place finish.

On May 5, the day of the driving events, the Soldiers made their way to the competition field by 7 a.m., with gloves, reflective belts, helmets and all of the other tools of their trade. Like athletes preparing for a championship, the teams walked around the field, studying the different events and deciding which competitor was most apt for each challenge. In addition to the written test and one maintenance event, the Soldiers competed in a decathlon of transportation events including loading and unloading of an Army Wrecker, backing a Humvee and trailer in a straight line, speeding through a “serpentine” of plastic barriers while driving a flat-bed truck and accelerating to 30 mph before quickly coming to a stop in the shortest distance possible while driving the Army’s version of a semi truck. Thirty second penalties were added to team’s scores for safety violations including hitting barriers, driving with arms or elbows out the window, or failing to turn the headlights on before driving.

The competition was held round-robin style with the teams rotating amongst the different events. However, the first event, the Humvee tire roll, was done head-to-head in order to set a competitive vibe. Each Soldier rolled a Humvee tire through a slalom of orange cones before handing it off to the next member of their team. The goal was to get all four members of the team through the course in the shortest amount of time. Team Edward, from the 711th Transportation Company, came in first in the tire roll, and the trash-talking quickly followed.

“They couldn’t beat us with one tire, what makes them think they can beat us with four,” said Sgt. John Daniel from the 711th as the teams prepared for the rest of the competition.

At the end of the competition, the participants, scorekeepers and commanders gathered for a barbecue and awards ceremony. After dining on hamburgers and hot dogs, the teams prepared to hear the day’s results. First, second and third place individual trophies were given out in each category. Then came the moment the competitors had been waiting for since the beginning of the competition. The overall team trophies had been taunting the competitors from a table in the middle of the rodeo field since the first round. Teams had been talking about how they would make room in their Humvees for the large trophy when their team was announced as the first-place winners. But of course, there could be only one team that took home first place. Team “Cutter” from the 211th Transportation Company earned the title with a combination of their individual scores, team events, physical training scores, and weapon’s qualification results. They earned seven individual awards including first place in three events. The other seven teams left with their heads held high, knowing they had done their best.

Amongst the field of competitors, there was one who stood out amongst her peers. Spc. Mary Lou Oliver was the only female Soldier in the rodeo. Her impressive driving skills earned her two individual awards and led her team to an overall fourth place finish. But Oliver’s hard work began before her team even arrived at the competition. While en route to Fort Hunter Liggett, Oliver’s company, the 730th Transportation Company, pulled off Highway 101 to fuel up their Humvees and grab a bite to eat. When they were getting ready to leave, they noticed a car had come to a stop on the sidewalk. The driver had suffered a medical emergency and crashed his car into a bus stop. Oliver rushed over to realize the victim did not have a pulse and was not breathing, so she began performing chest compressions. By the time the paramedics arrived, the victim had a faint pulse and was breathing again.

“I’m really proud of Spc. Oliver for what she did,” said Sgt. Jose Salazar, Oliver’s team leader. “Honestly, I kind of froze up, but she went right into action.”

Salazar and the rest of the 730th then continued on their way to the competition and were one of the favorites to win.

“I’m very proud of the Soldiers I took,” said Salazar. “We stayed motivated. We were tired and a little dehydrated, but we stayed positive.”

Salazar was so impressed by the event that he plans to hold a mini Truck Rodeo at his unit to increase morale and sharpen skills. Now that the teams have all participated in their first rodeo, they know what skills to train on in preparation for next year.

“Of course everybody says it, but we mean it,” said Salazar. “Next year, we’re going to take home the first place trophy.”




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