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NEWS | Nov. 1, 2007

Cowboy Airman returns after six-month rodeo tour

By Tony Perez 37th Training Wing Public Affairs Office

Travis Sterling, a member of the 37th Security Forces Squadron, recently returned to Lackland after completing one of his dreams.

Sterling spent the last six months touring the country while participating in the team roping event at numerous rodeos.

He is the first active-duty member of the Air Force to compete in Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeos.

Sterling did so proudly by wearing the Air Force logo on his uniform.

"There is so much stuff that has happened," said Sterling. "With God's blessing it has just sky rocketed. Hopefully it keeps going."

Sterling will travel to Washington for pre-deployment training on Nov. 13 and return to Lackland on Dec. 22. Shortly after, he will be deploying to Iraq.

Sterling has been told that his squadron commander supports his rodeo aspirations when he returns to the states from deployment.

"I've had so much support. I can't complain one bit," Sterling said.

This will be the second time Sterling has deployed to Iraq.

On his last tour, he brought a steer dummy so he could practice while he was in the desert.

"I'm going to train a little bit differently this time," Sterling said. "Catching isn't a problem anymore; now it's about handling the steer. This time while I'm in the desert, I will work on my hand position. When I get back on a horse after six months all of it is going to come naturally to me."

Sterling has no problem staying motivated to work on his craft while he is deployed in Iraq.

"It's my passion and it helps me pass time in the desert," Sterling said. "There are only four things that matter in my life: God, my country, my family and roping. I don't miss a day of practice."

Sterling was accompanied on his journey by his team roping partner and father, Travis Sterling, Senior.

"My favorite part was traveling with my dad," Sterling said. "That might have been the greatest experience of my life. It's been our dream since he put a rope in my hand when I was 3 years old. I told my dad during our last rodeo, I wouldn't want to do this with anyone else but him. Whether you win or lose it's the experience that goes with it that can't be replaced."

While the experience was a dream come true for Sterling, it was not without its struggles.

"The worst part had to be missing a roping assignment and then having to think about it for the next nine hours while you travel to the next rodeo," Sterling said. "It's so hard to put a bad rodeo behind you and focus on the next one."

Sterling maintains that the keys to being a great roping team are confidence and consistency.

"As a rookie, my momentum had to come from a good roping round and knowing that I can hang with the best in the world," Sterling said.

That positive attitude helped Sterling place 6th in the rodeo in Dodge City, Okla.

Sterling has already made goals for the next time he hits the rodeo circuit.

"I've already proven to myself that I can win," Sterling said. "Next time I want to be more aggressive, and also more consistent."

Sterling also has the ultimate goal of going to the National Finals in Las Vegas, which takes place in December, and winning the team roping championship.

"It's every cowboy's dream to wear one of the gold buckles, and I have no doubt in my mind that I'm going to do it. It is not a matter of if, but when," Sterling said.

He would like to do that by the time he is 30 years old.

"I'm 23 now and I'll be out of the military when I'm 25, and I'll still be a pup. That gives me five years to achieve my goal," Sterling said.