FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Sgt. Michael Hill, Company B, Support Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group, gathered his team under the shade of a camouflaged netting for a short, but informative mission brief, Aug. 10.

Hill, the team leader for one of the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School teams, used his expertise and knowledge of the terrain to successfully guide his team through the USAJFKSWC's 6th Annual Truck Rodeo, sponsored by Co. B Spt. Bn., 1st SWTG during the week of Aug. 8 to 11.

"(The Truck Rodeo) is not only a friendly competition based on driving skills and vehicle knowledge, but it's also a training event for everyone around Fort Bragg," said Capt. Andrew Eljdid, Co. B, Spt. Bn., 1st SWTG commander. "We also want to bring attention to other 88Ms (drivers) to the special operations community."

The events for the rodeo included a written exam on the technical aspects of different military vehicles, a driving skills portion and, for the first time, a field exercise was incorporated into the competition.

"We realized that MOS (military occupational specialty) skills are worthless if a Soldier can't perform those same tasks in a high stress environment," explained Eljdid. "So we included tactical and warrior skills into the competition."

On Tuesday, drivers were tested on their ability to negotiate different light medium tactical vehicles through narrow turns and cones. They also had to drive a five-ton tractor with a 48-foot trailer around barriers without knocking over obstacles.

"It's not everyday we engineers can show these 88Ms how to drive their vehicles," boasted Spc. Jonathan Smith, 919th Engineer Support Company, 307th Engineer Battalion. "We're heavy equipment operators, we drive the big (stuff)," he said.

"(That's why) the written test was the hardest part," added Pfc. Chris Shaffer, one of Smith's team members. "We don't work with this sort of equipment daily, we operate other construction equipment. We don't drive those girlie trucks … we operate the more manly equipment," he said.
"But we're out here to have fun," said Smith. "We're really looking forward for some good training."

The 919th ESC got their wish the following day with the start of the improvised explosive device lanes that the cadre set up for them. Once they received their mission, the teams headed out in a light medium tactical vehicle and a humvee to their directive.

Their first stop was to help a stranded coalition soldier who got his vehicle stuck in a pond. Using their LMTV and a tow strap, each team was timed from hooking up the humvee to the truck until all for wheels of the humvee were out of the pond.

The next stop was to help another coalition soldier who had a flat tire on his LMTV. But the competitors had to be weary of this soldier, as he was known for making booby traps for U.S. Soldiers. Again, the competitors were timed from jacking up the enormous truck to switching out the large, heavy tire.

After helping the Soldier who was stranded in a small village, the competitors picked up more coalition forces to help them on their next mission. While on their way to the next mission, they encounter a suspicious box with wires hanging out of it. The team was tested on the proper way to send headquarters a nine-line, unexploded ordinance/IED report.

Once cleared of the threat and back on their way, the small convoy of vehicles was hit by a simulated IED and gunfire from the right. A coalition soldier was injured in the blast and a competitor had to perform first aide to the victim. Then the convoy moved out of the danger area to meet up with a UH-60, Black Hawk, to medically evacuate the simulated casualty, which the team was evaluated on the proper way to send up a 9-line MEDEVAC request.

The realistic training had some competitors remembering moments from past deployments.
"It was very weird carrying the causalty," said Pfc. Jerimiah Rood, a team member of Hill's. "When I opened the humvee door, I was expecting to see a regular dummy, but seeing the boots on him … it was crazy. It was very realistic."

Sgt. Tiffany Brock, assistant team leader for Hill agreed.

"Even when I was doing first aid on the dummy it was squishy," she said, her hand covered in simulated blood. "Very realistic and very good training."

The training mimicked situations that both Rood and Brock encountered while deployed. "I think we did really well," said Hill. "We kind of have an underdog story. We got docked points from yesterday's events and so now we started today off in fourth place. I'm hoping this moved us up."

And move up they did. Hill's team finished the competition in second place. The top spot went to the team from Co. B, Spt. Bn., 1st SWTG, comprised of Sgt. Timothy Bell, Spc. Richard Samudio, Spc. Brandon Baker and Spc. Dustin Trumbull.

Spc. Solomon Mason, 108th Air Defense Artillery, summed up the competition.

"You know, this was just something fun to do since we're not used to doing this sort of thing being air defense and all," Mason said. "But it's overall good, realistic training. The easiest part was driving here!"