Sgt. Sheldon Semper-Henry (right) guides Sgt. Darius Turner in placing a basketball through the hoop during the 5K forklift driving course at the Defense Courier Rodeo. The event, held Friday at the Defense Courier Service Baltimore Station near Gaffney Fitness Center, helped couriers sharpen their skills.

FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (Sept. 27, 2012) -- Defense couriers are trained to handle sensitive materials with discretion and caution. Carrying a cup of water with a forklift through a weaving course or maneuvering a basketball into a hoop using the giant tines, however, is a whole new level of careful.

On Friday, members of the Defense Courier Service Baltimore Station, located at Fort Meade, tested their skills in the Defense Courier Rodeo. The daylong event featured challenges with forklifts, trucks, pallet stacking, handling packages and an obstacle course.

"Everything is geared around things we do every day," said Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Moon, chief of the station.

The Defense Courier Service is a joint-service organization that transports secure materials. Located near Gaffney Fitness Center, the station is one of 18 worldwide and handles an average of 1.2 million pounds of materially annually.

Moon said the rodeo was partially held in remembrance of 9/11.

"This is also our tribute to 9/11," he said. "We're testing our skills. We feel like that's the best way we can support and remember those who lost their lives, to be proficient at what we do."

The concept of the rodeo was based on the Air Mobility Rodeo, a biennial international airlift competition hosted by the U.S. Air Force Air Mobility Command that tests service members' capabilities in a competitive environment.

After about seven months of planning, the inaugural Defense Courier Rodeo was held Friday.

"We just brought that concept to this courier station," Moon said.

While the event created a competitive atmosphere between the close-knit defense couriers, Moon said the main focus of the event was to sharpen their skills while having a little fun.

"I've been saying, 'Let's have fun today.' We go through training, we go through PowerPoint slides, we do a little bit of hands on, but you can't beat this," he said.

Service members formed four teams of four for the competition: Warriors, Couriers of Anarchy, Hakuna Mattata and Five Guys.

Throughout the event, teams conducted a combat courier mission in which they were given a package to handle using proper protocol. That included presenting credentials whenever asked and possessing the package the entire day. Failure to do so would disqualify the team from the final obstacle course.

With the packages in backpacks, the teams began the event with four tasks: over-the-counter challenge, 8-ton serpentine driving course, 5K forklift driving course and a pallet buildup competition. In each event, points were deducted for various errors such as adjusting the tines while driving the forklift or hitting a cone on the truck course.

During the over-the-counter challenge, each team conducted typical work at the customer counter such as processing mail and delivering a package to a customer. The 8-ton course tested the driving skills of one member per team as remaining service members directed the large truck through a winding course both forward and backward.

For the 5K forklift driving course, each driver maneuvered the machine through a complex course with the help of one spotter. The driver first carried a cup of water on the tines through a weaving course going forward and backward. Each driver then placed cargo on a skid before picking up a basketball, making a figure 8 and placing the ball through a hoop with the tines.

Sgt. Shawn Sigley, who maneuvered through the course for the Warriors, said it was a difficult challenge.

"The water on the tongs was a real challenge," he said. "Especially with the holes in the floor, it's real easy to spill and knock over. Basketball was just fun."

For the pallet buildup, competitors sorted through materials then stacked the boxes on a pallet.

After all groups completed the challenges, they competed in a final obstacle course outside. The course included a run, low crawl, van push, dunnage carry back-and-forth, stretcher carry, semitruck tire flip, skid carry, sit-ups and pushups. At the end of the obstacle course, the teams encountered a gate locked with a high-security lock.

To unlock the gate and finish the competition, the teams had to locate the codes inside the packages they had been carrying all day.

Yeoman 2nd Class Cari Moody, team leader for Hakuna Mattata, said the obstacle course was the hardest part of the competition.

"You've already spent all day [competing], it's hot outside and you're tired," she said.

After the competition, several of the defense couriers said they enjoyed the break from everyday work.

"It was awesome," Moody said. "It was better than I thought."

During the award ceremony, Moon said he was "really proud of everybody." He also presented a large trophy to the Warriors for the victory.

Couriers of Anarchy came in second. Hakuna Mattata took third, while Five Guys finished fourth.

"It was great," said Sgt. Marcus Atchinson, team leader of the Warriors. "It was definitely a challenge and a great training experience. I want to do it again."

Page last updated Fri September 28th, 2012 at 11:26