News: Truckers collide at first ever KAF rodeo
Story by Sgt. Gregory Williams
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — The 25th Transportation Company hosted the first ever Kandahar Airfield Truck Rodeo, Aug. 17, 2012.
The units that participated were the 515th, 781st, 25th and 1486th Transportation Company’s, whose mission is to support Joint Sustainment Command- Afghanistan soldiers throughout southern Afghanistan.
“This competition is great because it gives drivers the opportunity to prove just how good they are,” said Spc. Audrie W. Dary, a truck driver and team member with the 515th Transportation Company. “The hardest thing at this competition is going to be that backward Serpentine obstacle though.”
The goal of the truck rodeo was to not only provide an opportunity for truck drivers to sharpen their skills, also allowed the winning unit to have bragging rights and be called “The Best TC on KAF.”
“The armor on these vehicles takes away their peripheral vision and forces these drivers to use their better judgment,” Sgt. 1st Class Rohan Duncan, a truck rodeo judge, 25th Transportation Company, said. “The whole rodeo is to not only provide motivation and morale, but it makes them better drivers too.”
For most soldiers who operate both the up-armored Palletized Load System and M915 vehicles, the only opportunity to become better drivers are on convoy missions, which can present all types of challenges ranging from tight alleys to rough terrain. Some of the simulated obstacles for the rodeo included the alley dock, pull forward stop / straight line backing, left turn, serpentine course, right turn, stopping within prescribed limits and at the culminating mystery event.
To take part in the rodeo, drivers had to be licensed on both the M915 and PLS with each TC sending up to three personnel per vehicle type to compete at the new Kandahar Airfield Crisp Yard.
Drivers were graded by a point system determined by judges with deductions for hitting cones, time, distance from objectives and safety practices.
“These guys drive through a lot of narrow roads and bridges on their convoy routes so we’re looking at how they maneuver through the obstacles,” Duncan said. “This is a simulation of what they encounter out there already and 75 percent of the rodeo is based on judgment”
A variety of emotions could be seen on the face of drivers as some would have a look of frustration due to disqualification, while others beamed with confidence as if they had the competition in the bag.
“So far there have been hiccups, but my team has been fortunate to learn from others mistakes,” Dary said. “Which is good for us because when you’re backing up a 40 ft., trailer, it’s all challenging.”
Duncan said taxpayers and commands may not see how competitions like a truck rodeo could help save government dollars in the long run, but more truck rodeos could help the Army reduce unnecessary spending.
“Simple accidents cost money,” Duncan said. “People don’t realize that just like in the civilian world, broken mirrors and vehicles sideswiping each other costs money. The less accidents truck drivers have, the more money the Army saves so definitely this is still helping us train.”
Duncan said there are no losers when it comes to training and soldiers building new relationships as the truck rodeo brought drivers together from different Army components.
“We have active duty and National Guard out here learning from each other so regardless to whoever wins we all had fun and this has left me feeling humble,” Duncan said. “I’m glad we had the chance to build camaraderie with one another.”