FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Fort Leonard Wood’s Air Force 368th Training Squadron hosted a ground transportation summit and competitive rodeo event this week.
According to Air Force Tech. Sgt. Dakotah Kingfisher, a ground transportation instructor here and one of the event organizers, more than 150 Airmen — from senior career field managers to junior enlisted vehicle operators — came together here from installations worldwide to discuss the future of their specialty, find and resolve issues, discuss best practices, and “put faces to names.”
“It’s pretty rare, at least in my experience, that you see all of your senior enlisted leaders in your career field in one location,” he said. “The opportunity to speak with everyone, and actually see their faces — it helps connect more than just seeing a name on an email or a piece of paper. It’s really good for us, as a community, to link together and build relationships.”
Kingfisher said one of the major discussion points during the two-day summit portion — held in Lincoln Hall Auditorium — was the standardization of training across the career field.
“One of the big things we’re trying to do is move to a commercial motor vehicle standard with our vehicle fleet,” he said.
The CMV standard, as it’s referred to, is more stringent than past Air Force vehicle certifications and is in line with other federal, state and local government entities.
After discussing their career field, the rodeo portion of the week provided the chance for “a little competition,” said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Derrick Moreau, another 368th TRS ground transportation instructor, who assisted in organizing the event.
“The rodeo is basically a skills competition — just to see who’s the best,” he said.
This was the fourth year Fort Leonard Wood’s ground transportation Airmen held their rodeo, and it’s also the largest to date — 18 four-person teams competed.
“In past years, we averaged probably 10 or 11 teams,” Moreau said.
The teams competed in five timed events designed to test a ground transportation Airmen’s knowledge and skills, he added, and included a written test over their career-specific Air Force Instructions, backing a tractor trailer into a narrow space, backing two types of forklifts through a course and a team event that involved working together to push a bus and then secure a vehicle to a trailer.
The winners each year get their unit name and installation etched onto a traveling trophy, and this year, the 509th Logistics Readiness Squadron from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, had that honor.
One of the winners was Air Force Staff Sgt. Derek Kitis. He said he enjoyed the camaraderie this week.
“We came out here to compete, but at the end of the day, you will not find a career field that shows more love and support toward each other than ours,” he said.
Kitis added that winning the rodeo starts with consistent training.
“Just being on top of everyday tasks at home station and really just looking out for the individuals you bring with you,” he said.
The Whiteman team almost didn’t make it to Fort Leonard Wood this year, Kitis said, because one of their team members couldn’t find a babysitter at the last minute.
“I said, ‘Hey, bring the baby along. While you go and compete in your events, I’ll watch the baby,’” he said. “That’s part of our team concept.”
Air Force Brig. Gen. Linda Hurry, director of Logistics and deputy chief of staff for Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection at the Pentagon, presided over the event this year. She called it a “tremendous opportunity to get the entire ground transportation family together.”
“I’m so proud of everything they’re doing,” she said. “It was great to be able to do this face-to-face and have good conversations about what we can do to take our career field to the next level, and also have a little spirited competition to show off the tremendous skills of our Airmen.”
Hurry said this was her first visit to Fort Leonard Wood.
“It’s an absolutely gorgeous installation,” she said. “I’m so impressed with the facilities and so thankful for the support of the community here.”
Kingfisher called Fort Leonard Wood the “mecca” of the Air Force ground transportation world.
“With our ground transportation schoolhouse here, almost every one of the folks coming for this event went through here at some point,” he said. “Everyone likes to go back to their roots.”