By Sgt. David Harris, 4th PSYOP Group PAOAugust 28, 2009
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - There was a rodeo on Fort Bragg Aug. 10 through 14, but instead of bucking Brahma bulls there were billowy olive drab canopies. The participants substituted bright yellow static lines for steer-roping lariats. And, instead of cowboy hats, the competitors donned fire engine red rigger hats. The 2009 Rigger Rodeo brought in 10 teams from throughout the United States and Europe to determine the best rigger company in the Army.
The week-long event started in the early morning hours of Aug. 10 with a four-mile "Red Hat Run." After breakfast, the riggers gathered in the 612th Rigger Facility on Canopy Lane for the parachute packing competition. 2nd Lt. Tony Nuber, an air delivery officer with 623rd Quartermaster Company, was the officer in charge of the Rigger Rodeo. He said the rodeo gives these riggers a chance to broaden their skills.
"Most rigger companies have very specific tasks, for example, repair or air delivery. But, riggers have a wide set of skills that they need to maintain for when they're assigned to a new unit. This competition allows them to work on some skills they might be a bit rusty with," Nuber explained.
For the packing portion of the competition, the riggers had to pack a MC1-1D canopy and a reserve parachute. The riggers were scored based on their time and the quality of their work. A competitive rigger can pack a main parachute in about eight to ten minutes. Shouts of "rigger!" echoed through the building. These were the competitors signaling their graders for them to check a step in the packing process to ensure proper procedures were followed.
The next day, the riggers headed out to Luzon drop zone near Camp Mackall to test out their handiwork. For this competition, each rigger team provided one jumpmaster and three jumpers.
The team's jumpmaster had to locate three white circles on the ground, marked off with engineer tape, and send his troops out the door, hopefully to land as close as possible to their respective white circle. The parachutes and main jumpmaster team were provided by the riggers of the 4th Psychological Operations Group, who were competing in the rodeo for the first time. Graders on the ground timed the jumpers from the second they left the plane, until they stepped foot in their white circle. If a jumper succeeded in landing inside the white circle, the scorer gave him a time of zero. The first Soldier to land inside his circle was Spc. Cody Tedder, with the 11th Quartermaster Company. He said he was pleased that he landed where he did.
"I didn't go as good as I wanted to on the packing portion, so I guess this makes up for it."
Tedder was at Fort Bragg for last year's Rigger Rodeo, but didn't get a chance to compete. He said it looked fun last year, and he's glad he's competing in this year's event.
"It's an awesome thing with people coming from all around. And we all have buddies we knew from rigger school that we weren't too sure where they disappeared off to. It's kind of cool to see everyone again and get reconnected," Tedder said.
The week's events also included a four-mile road march, packing a cargo parachute, preparing cargo bags for airdrop, repairing a suspension line, sewing a canopy and there was a written test on rigger knowledge.
The night of Aug. 14, all the riggers gathered at the Fort Bragg Officer Club for their Rigger Ball.
The 82nd Airborne Division Chorus wowed the crowd with a spirited performance. In attendance were founding members of the Red Hat Chapter, an organization made up of retired and
former riggers, including 1st Sgt. (Ret.) Troy Oates, who served with the test platoon from 1950 until 1952. Lt. Col. David Gillem, commander of the 82nd Airborne's Special Troops Battalion, thanked the Red Hat Chapter for providing the trophy that was given to the winning team.
"Every single rigger here today now has a direct connection to the test platoon. I know you're riggers and I know you put the 'air' in airborne. But, without the test platoon, there wouldn't have been an airborne to put the 'air' into," Gillem remarked.
The Red Hat Chapter members, with some help from other riggers, hoisted the huge trophy and gave it to this year's winner. Fort Bragg may be "Home of the Airborne," but this is the second year in a row that a team from another post took home the top prize. Co. E, 1st Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment from Fort Benning, Ga. won first place. Sgt. Johnny Delgado, the team's NCO, was surprised by their win.
"We had some good competition. The 612th (Quartermaster) gave us a run for our money the whole time. I couldn't do it without my Soldiers I came out here with," Delgado said.
To conclude the ceremony, all the riggers stood and recited the rigger creed. Delgado summed up its importance to a rigger's duties.
"I will be sure always. That's the last line of the rigger's creed. To me that means when I'm inspecting my Soldiers as they pack, I'm making sure that every step is done right so that any trooper that gets in that 'chute is going to be safe on his way to the ground."