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First 'blended' team to represent McConnell at Rodeo

Senior Airman Gilberto Rodriguez-Martinez (on left) works in his socks and Master Sgt. Al Ryder steps on plastic to protect a new coat of paint to the floor of a KC-135 Stratotanker scheduled for competitions at Air Mobility Rodeo 2009. Both maintainers are assigned to a "blended" team of Reserve and Regular (active-duty) Airmen preparing to represent McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., as a total force at the biennial readiness competition. Sergeant Ryder is a Reservist assigned to the 931st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. Airman Rodriguez-Martinez is an active-duty Airman assigned to the 22nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)

Senior Airman Gilberto Rodriguez-Martinez (on left) works in his socks and Master Sgt. Al Ryder steps on plastic to protect a new coat of paint to the floor of a KC-135 Stratotanker scheduled for competitions at Air Mobility Rodeo 2009. Both maintainers are assigned to a "blended" team of Reserve and Regular (active-duty) Airmen preparing to represent McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., as a total force at the biennial readiness competition. Sergeant Ryder is a Reservist assigned to the 931st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. Airman Rodriguez-Martinez is an active-duty Airman assigned to the 22nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)

Tech. Sgt. Erik Louviere creates a custom travel kit for tools and equipment needed for Air Mobility Rodeo 2009, a world-wide readiness competition scheduled for July 19-25 at McChord AFB, Washington. Sergeant Louviere is an active-duty Airman assigned to the 22nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. Sergeant Louviere is part of a Reserve and Regular (active-duty) team at McConnell preparing for Rodeo. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)

Tech. Sgt. Erik Louviere creates a custom travel kit for tools and equipment needed for Air Mobility Rodeo 2009, a world-wide readiness competition scheduled for July 19-25 at McChord AFB, Washington. Sergeant Louviere is an active-duty Airman assigned to the 22nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. Sergeant Louviere is part of a Reserve and Regular (active-duty) team at McConnell preparing for Rodeo. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)

A painted and polished crash axe waits on a work table near a KC-135 Stratotanker scheduled to compete in Air Mobility Rodeo 2009. Cleaning and painting is part of the usual preparation for the biennial readiness competition. A crash axe can be used to cut through the wall of KC-135 in case of an emergency. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)

A painted and polished crash axe waits on a work table near a KC-135 Stratotanker scheduled to compete in Air Mobility Rodeo 2009. Cleaning and painting is part of the usual preparation for the biennial readiness competition. A crash axe can be used to cut through the wall of KC-135 in case of an emergency. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)

Tech. Sgt. Adam Keeter (on left) and Tech. Sgt. Seth Cullum work together to replace a seal at the bottom of a KC-135 Stratotanker in a hangar at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. They are part of a "blended" Reserve and active-duty team preparing for Air Mobility Rodeo 2009. Sergeant's Keeter and Cullum work for the 931st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at McConnell as air reserve technicians, full-time civilian employees who work in the same position they occupy as Reservists. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)

Tech. Sgt. Adam Keeter (on left) and Tech. Sgt. Seth Cullum work together to replace a seal at the bottom of a KC-135 Stratotanker in a hangar at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. They are part of a "blended" Reserve and active-duty team preparing for Air Mobility Rodeo 2009. Sergeant's Keeter and Cullum work for the 931st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at McConnell as air reserve technicians, full-time civilian employees who work in the same position they occupy as Reservists. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)

Master Sgt. Al Ryder (top left) talks with some active-duty Airmen assigned to a maintenance team preparing for Air Mobility Rodeo 2009. Sergeant Ryder is a Reservist assigned to the 931st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. A "blended" team of Reserve and Regular (activ-duty) Airmen from McConnell are preparing for the biennial readiness competition for the first time. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)

Master Sgt. Al Ryder (top left) talks with some active-duty Airmen assigned to a maintenance team preparing for Air Mobility Rodeo 2009. Sergeant Ryder is a Reservist assigned to the 931st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. A "blended" team of Reserve and Regular (activ-duty) Airmen from McConnell are preparing for the biennial readiness competition for the first time. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)

Air Mobility Rodeo 2009 Logo

Air Mobility Rodeo 2009 Logo

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- Some of the base's best flyers and maintainers are out to prove that Team McConnell is a "Total Force" to be reckoned with.

A "blended" group of Reserve and Regular (active-duty) Airmen stationed here are preparing for Air Mobility Rodeo 2009, a world-wide readiness competition scheduled from July 19-25 at McChord AFB, Washington.

The integrated Rodeo team, a first at McConnell, consists of 12 KC-135 Stratotanker maintainers and five KC-135 aircrew members. Master Sgt. Darren Harris, 22nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, is co-leading the maintenance team. There is good reason to believe, he said, that success is waiting for Team McConnell at McChord.

"That's the whole plan," Sergeant Harris said. "We're going there to win, not just to play."
Senior Master Sgt. John Wallman, a Reserve KC-135 boom operator assigned to the 931st Air Refueling Group, said he volunteered for the Rodeo team because it appealed to his "very competitive" nature.

"I want to see where McConnell stands with the rest of the Air Force," Sergeant Wallman said. "I think we'll (finish) real well."
More than 100 teams and 2,500 people from the Air Force and allied-nation air forces are expected to participate in this year's Rodeo. The biennial competition tests the many moving parts of military airlift and refueling capabilities. It includes maintenance, aircrew, aerial port, security forces, aeromedical evacuation and even physical fitness competitions.

"Rodeo is the 'Top Gun' of air mobility (challenges)," Master Sgt. Al Ryder said, referring to the prestige of the biennial contest. Nothing tests air mobility personnel like Rodeo.

Sergeant Ryder speaks from experience. He's a maintenance crew chief supervisor assigned to the 931st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron who has been to four other Rodeos, twice as a competitor and twice as an umpire.

"He just knows everything about the '135," said Tech. Sgt. Erik Louviere, an active-duty jet engine mechanic, about the advantage of integrating experienced Reservists like Sergeant Ryder into a Rodeo team with active-duty Airmen.

Knowing what the judges will be looking for, Sergeant Ryder said, "has helped a lot" since his team came together in May. He was asked to head up this year's maintenance team with Sergeant Harris because of his first-hand knowledge of what to expect in July. Four other Reserve maintainers from the 931st were also chosen be part of the team.

"A lot of them are quite experienced," active-duty crew chief Senior Airman Gilberto Rodriguez-Martinez said about his Reserve Rodeo teammates. "So they teach us a lot of new things."

The Regular/Reserve mix is working so well, Sergeant Ryder said, he "feels real confident" about the team's potential. "They have what it takes," he said. "I know that...I really believe they will (perform well). They are working hard."