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NEWS | March 22, 2021

Students compete with passion, pride during first 345th TRS Port Dawg Rodeo

By Agnes Koterba 37th Training Wing Public Affairs

Passion, pride, and community are what many organizations strive for and few achieve. The 345th Training Squadron at Fort Lee, Virginia, demonstrated these values and more Feb. 26 during the schoolhouse’s first Port Dawg Rodeo.

“The rodeo was a great event which enabled us to showcase the competitive nature of our career field but still build the Port Dawg pride that the career field embodies,” said Staff Sgt. Tyler Champion, 345th TRS Instructor Supervisor for the Air Transportation Apprentice Course.

Not only is this the first rodeo for the training squadron, but it also is the first time the rodeo has taken place within the schoolhouse environment. Typically, the rodeo is designated for Airmen and NCOs with greater levels of experience and expertise.

“The participants impressed us with their knowledge, skills and positive attitudes throughout the competition, regardless of the tasks presented.  There seemed no undertaking too large nor too small for them to take head-on, whether they were in their second week of training or had recently graduated from technical training,” said Chief Master Sgt. William Villarreal, Air Transportation Career Field Manager. “We were thoroughly impressed the Airmen were not only able to complete basic tasks, but those more advanced, such as computing tie-down restraint criteria to build a chain bridle … something I never knew how to do until my third year in service.”

The 345th TRS falls under the 37th Training Group at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland and moved to Fort Lee in 2010. The squadron trains, develops and educates technical training students into skilled graduates in the Services, Air Transportation, Hazardous Material Transportation School and Traffic Management Office career fields.

With seven five-member teams, the 345th TRS Airmen applied their physical and mental finesse learned during training. Instructors judged time, accuracy, safety and general concept principles to determine the Top Dawg.

“The Port Dawg Rodeo was an awesome opportunity to apply what we learned in class in a fun and competitive environment,” remarked Airman 1st Class Alan Vance, an Air Transportation apprentice assigned to the California Air National Guard’s 129th Logistics Readiness Squadron.

Vance used skills of the trade for added team value. 

“Additionally, learning these skills as a team taught us to understand that seemingly simple tasks are intricate processes that can quickly and easily be accomplished when the team understands what comes next,” Vance said. “Coupled with our competitive nature we were able to develop effective plans to accomplish the tasks of the rodeo.”

Good-natured competition added excitement to the day. Most importantly, instructors and military training leaders wanted to keep “spirits high … through trying times,” said Andrea Taylor, Air Transportation Instructor Supervisor.

The Port Dawg Rodeo goes beyond being another contest, helping bring Airmen together as “family without the actual bloodlines to prove it,” Taylor said. “By taking pride in what we do and who we are, we guarantee the mission will not only be done on time without flaws but also done at the highest level possible.”

Pallet build-up, vehicle restraint, cargo deck configuration, multi-pallet train/chain bridles, center of balance, spotting, and a relay race comprised the event list.

Many felt the pallet build-up was a tough test, as Airmen had to recall numerous steps and collaborate as a team soon after learning the fundamentals. The cargo deck configurations came in a close second for the most challenging event. Team members needed to closely review any disparities ensuring everything was accounted for within time. 

“It was a privilege and a treat to share in such a significant piece of the Port Dawg culture and history and I was super proud of our team for kicking it back off! I loved how the Port Dawgs invited everyone (students, faculty, sister schoolhouses) into their culture and I don’t think there was a single person at the event that was not blown away and inspired by their rich heritage and technical aptitude. I (a force support officer) even got the chance to practice my tie-down skills and learn a thing or two courtesy from the instructors,” wrote Capt. Teresa Baksh, 345th TRS commander.

With a long history, the rodeo is admired for bringing Airmen together while testing mission-essential expertise.

“I remember watching my first Port Dawg Rodeo as a lieutenant. Over the course of time, this extremely competitive event grew into something extraordinary. Born from necessity, the Rodeo is far more than just a competition. It instills in our Airmen honor, pride and respect, further building a team and community that will outlive our time in uniform,” said Col. Joyce Storm, 37th TRG commander. “I admire the will, expert knowledge, and strength of our Airmen who go to remarkable lengths in order to be prepared to complete the mission.”

The 345th TRS plans to hold a rodeo annually encouraging students to develop and embrace the Port Dawg way.