By By Staff Sgt. Julius Thomas September 28, 2016
ASCHAFFENBURG, Germany -- Six Soldiers formed two three-man teams to compete against the best operators from around the world at the Stapler Cup International Forklift Championship here from September 14 -- 17.
Staff Sgt. Julius Thomas and fellow cargo transporters Spc. Guadalupe Aumua, Spc. Theodore Snead, and Pvt. Elroy Myers from 1st Inland Cargo Transfer Company, 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion along with Staff Sgt. Dulces Casso and Pfc. Daveldeia Gaillard from the 624th Movement Control Team competed against teams from 18 nations.
"The equipment handling was amazing compared to what we use at work," said Snead. "I've never seen forklifts move so fast."
Prior to the competition the teams received two hours of one-on-one training on three types of electric forklifts they were not familiar with. Jurgen Boeer, Vice President of Defense Industry Relations, Associate of the United States Army, said it was impressive to see how quickly the Soldiers picked up the skills needed to handle the equipment.
When the teams entered the arena, the large enthusiastic crowd met them with music, laughter, and raucous chants.
"Each team competed in two events," Casso said. "Our performance was not the best due to the lack of time to practice and getting familiar with the forklifts. The competition required not only good skills to maneuver but also precision, balance, speed, and communication."
During one of the events, one driver had to pick up a metal bar with two rings on each side, move over a ramp without losing the rings or bar, and transfer them to another forklift driven by a second team member, who maneuvered through cones the length of the bar.
The second driver then had to transfer the bar to the third and final team member, operating a different type of forklift, who brought the bar and rings back to the beginning of the course, placed the rings into their holders, and touched the forks to the ground.
Neither team placed in the competition but they have hope to train, compete and do better next year.
"I believe if we would have had the time to get together as one team and have adequate time to practice on the forklifts before the competition, we would have done a much better job," Casso said. "I am confident in the knowledge and expertise of our team. The numbers and place did not show it."
Casso added that despite the loss, they enjoyed driving the different forklifts, competing against the best from other countries and learning new tricks.
"Even though we were eliminated already because of our time, the crowd cheered us on to the finish," said Aumua. "I've never experienced anything like this. We didn't win but it was an awesome opportunity."