FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (May 28, 2015) -- Fort Leonard Wood's Training Area 228 parking lot was transformed into a rodeo Friday.

Instead of cowboys riding horses and bulls, Soldiers with the 58th Transportation Battalion participated in a truck rodeo where 88M, motor transport operators, maneuvered 5- to 10-ton vehicles through tight spaces and orange traffic cones.

The 24 participants for this year's event competed in three, graded obstacles to include: parallel-parking a 40-foot tractor trailer system, moving a load handling system through a serpentine course and alley-backing a 5-ton cargo truck to a docking zone.

"We instruct all the 88M motor transport operators, so this is a great opportunity to promote friendly competition among the instructors. They teach students every day, and they rarely get a chance to do something together," said Lt. Col. Steve Howell, 58th Trans. Bn. commander, whose battalion has won Training and Doctrine Command's Instructor of the Year award in the noncommissioned officer category two years in a row.

"We came up with the idea of having a truck rodeo, not just for the instructors, but to give Family members an opportunity to see what their spouse does on a day-to-day basis," Howell explained.

It's a great opportunity to see what right looks like, Howell, a Norwood, North Carolina, native, added.

Following a safety brief, competitors received a demonstration for the M915 parallel-park event, which followed Missouri Commercial Driver's License standards. Drivers performed the task given only the length of the truck, plus 15 feet.

Sgt. 1st Class Milton Clarke, 58th Trans. Bn., 88M instructor/writer, who graded the parallel-park event, said it's all about timing when it comes to straight parallel-parking a vehicle that could have a load of up to 20- to 30,000 pounds, without hitting the cones or going outside of the lines.

"With a 40-foot trailer on the back, you have to make sure you're turning the right way to get the trailer to go the direction in which you want it to go," the Norfolk, Virginia, native, said.

Staff Sgt. Robert Wukasch, 58th Trans. Bn. instructor/writer, completed the parallel-park event with a time of 56 seconds.

"Anything under a minute is an outstanding time," said Wukasch, a Houston, Texas, native, with more than 35 years of military and civilian driving experience. "A lot of people try to go too fast, and you need to take your time and pay attention to where the trailer is and not always just the truck."

Wukasch explained that one big difference between driving an M915 versus a privately-owned vehicle is the vehicle weight.

"Most normal cars are about 3,500 pounds," he said. "Now you're talking about equipment that can hold loads plus their weight of 80,000 pounds, plus, and the length of these vehicles is huge. It takes a lot more time to stop, and you've got to look further down the road as opposed to a car you can just quick break and quick turn."

The second event, operating a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck, or load handling system, through a serpentine, may seem easy going forward, but it gets a little tricky to repeat the winding path with the HEMTT in reverse, according to Staff Sgt. Christopher Cross, 88M Advanced Individual Training instructor/writer.

"You have to weave through cones, get to the stopping point and reverse that by weaving back through the cones backwards," Cross, a Fayetteville, North Carolina, native, said upon completing the task for the first time. "You have to pay attention to your mirrors and judge the distance and know when to turn the vehicle. The turning ratio on this vehicle is a lot harder versus a POV. The wheels don't turn as quickly and as much, so the vehicle isn't able to maneuver as quickly."

"This is an advanced operation; we do not teach this to Advanced Individual Training students," Cross added.

Sgt. 1st Class Gregory Reese, an 88M instructor/writer, from La Porte, Indiana, explained the serpentine with LHS event was evaluated on time, how many cones the driver hit, whether drivers sounded their horn when they put the truck in reverse, and safety.

The tight distance between cones and the truck's wide turn radius make it difficult, added Reese, who has been a motor transport operator for 18 years.

The final task, alley-backing, or parking a 5-ton truck, would seem easier than the first two tasks, because the truck length is 30 to 50 percent shorter than the other two vehicles: however, backing up and parking a truck in adverse angles made the event a challenge, according to Capt. Petro Mycio, Company B, 58th Trans. Bn., company commander, who hails from Long Island, New York.

"You are judged based on accuracy, how well you use the vehicle -- instead of sticking your head out the window, time and accuracy in where you park the vehicle," Mycio said.

"It's great to test our own skills and wits behind the vehicles that we teach," he added.

Staff Sgt. Dylana Barnes, an AIT platoon sergeant from El Paso, Texas, said she liked the truck rodeo because it brought everyone together. Since she is a 25N, Nodal Network Systems Operator-Maintainer, not an 88M, she got to experience these tasks for the first time.

Top honors went to Staff Sgt. Lawrence Ewing, who completed the event with a score of 365 points. Ewing's name will be engraved on a "King of the Road" plaque that will be displayed in the battalion headquarters. Second and third place finishers were Staff Sgt. Archie Jackson, and Cross, who had 360 and 350 points respectively.

Becoming an expert at teaching maneuvers takes experience, patience and lots of repetition, said the battalion commander.

"This was a great opportunity to showcase what we do as motor transport operators and the skill of these great noncommissioned officers and their talent in teaching these young transporters coming up," Howell said. "They work hard each and every single day. They are out here in summer, when it's 100 degrees out, 10 to 12 hours a day. They have to come in early and stay late to check equipment, doing this over and over again. I'm very proud of each and every one of them."