The Truck Rodeo is a training competition held each year for Soldiers to test and hone their skills as truck drivers.
"Our annual Truck Rodeo is an event that allows Soldiers the opportunity to showcase their expertise in skills that are vital to the unit's mission in the Missouri Army National Guard," said Capt. Matthew Knoderer, commander of the 1221st Transportation Company. "The tasks that are evaluated are critical skills that drivers must be able to perform in order to be subject matter experts in what they do."
The unit was divided into teams of two, one more experienced Soldier and one less experienced. Along with building unit camaraderie, working in small teams allows the Soldiers to exchange knowledge.
Each Soldier had to properly complete the following tasks: preventative maintenance and checks of a truck and trailer before usage, connecting and disconnecting a trailer from a truck, secure a load on a trailer, driving forward and backward in a straight line without disturbing any cones and stopping at the designated distance from the stop line, backing a truck and trailer at an angle into a loading dock, driving through a set-up similar to what they would encounter in theater without hitting a cone, and changing tires on a truck and trailer.
Each task has a set list of military regulations and the teams are judged and scored on how well they follow and complete them. It can be daunting to not only remember everything but also perform perfectly.
But that's all the point of the rodeo, to challenge their Soldiers to perform well on missions, said 1st Sgt. Steven Alexander.
"Missions can happen any time throughout the year," said Alexander. "Drivers have to be prepared and ready at a moment's notice."
This year the unit used their new 915A5 tractor trucks, which add an additional challenge for all the Soldiers despite experience level.
"Using the new trucks is good because the turning radius is completely different," said Sgt. Dennis Rodgers, of Dexter, who works as a truck driver in his civilian job. "It's a different truck, a different way of driving."
In addition, the unit decided to make each of the tasks more like real-world missions and more challenging, said Alexander.
For example, there are 25 items a Soldier must check on a truck before it can even be used. If a single one of these items doesn't pass inspection the vehicle is considered deadlined or undrivable until the problem is fixed. If one of the items is overlooked it may cause a risk later during the mission. As a part of this year's rodeo, Soldiers were given an already deadlined truck without their knowledge. They had to find the problem and offer a solution.
Another change included having connex shipping containers at each truck and trailer at every task. This affects the trucks maneuverability, weight and how a Soldier has to drive, said Alexander.
The serpentine, one of the most difficult tasks the Soldiers were required to do, is now even more challenging when the Soldiers cannot see behind them and have to rely on their side mirrors. The set up is supposed to simulate what the Soldiers could encounter on missions in Missouri or in theater, particularly on a big base where roads vary and traffic increases.
Spc. Grant Richardson, of Deering, drove a truck and trailer forward and backward through a winding path of cones.
"With a connex it's a bit more difficult especially backing up because it takes away a great portion of your visual references," said Richardson.
He has to rely on his side mirrors and the hand signals from his teammate Spc. Jason Gladden to guide him back into place.
"It's great for training," said Richardson. "Anywhere we drive our trailers have lots of equipment and connex's."
At each task graders follow each team and evaluate their progress and performance, but also offer advice to less experienced Soldiers.
"It's not only a contest, but a learning experience," said Alexander.
Inexperienced Soldiers get the opportunity to learn and master new skills, experienced Soldiers get to improve and tackle the new additional challenges.
While training is the main aspect of the rodeo, the competition does push the Soldiers to win bragging rights for their team as well as for their platoon.
"The event also results in a high level of motivation, competition and unit pride as the individual scores are tabulated," said Knoderer. "The platoon with the best overall score wins a trophy that will be displayed in their respective armory until the event is held again the following year."
First place winners this year were Sgt. Cory Adams, of Kennett, and Pfc. Garrett Smith, of Portageville.
Second place were Spc. Christopher Lutes, of Marble Hill, and Spc. Devan Moore, of Oran.
Third place were Spc. Samuel Simms, of Hayti, and Pfc. Eric Tidwell, of Betrand.
Detachment 1, located in Portageville, won for best platoon and will keep the unit's trophy unil next year's rodeo.
For pictures of this year's truck rodeo visit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/missourigua...
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