LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, TEXAS —
Travis Sterling was leaving Houston with his team-roping partner and father, Paul. They were heading to a rodeo event in Pampa.
Travis Sterling, a member of the 37th Security Forces Squadron at Lackland, is the first active-duty member of the Air Force to compete in Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeos. He celebrates this accomplishment by wearing the Air Force logo on his uniform.
"It's been awesome spending time with my dad," Sterling said. "We've been through a lot since we started this thing four months ago in Huntsville. My little brother, Payton, comes along, so it's just the three Sterling boys on the road and it's an adventure."
Sterling and his dad placed seventh in the team roping event during the Dodge City Roundup Rodeo Aug. 1-5 in Dodge City, Kan. They placed fifth at an earlier rodeo in Mesquite.
"I'm pretty happy with our results," Sterling said. "Our main goal was to get our feet wet and to get back in sync. Everybody wants to win, but I'm a rookie on the circuit, and to be able to compete against some of the veterans and learn from them has been nothing but a confidence booster. We've only been doing this professionally for four months now."
The Sterling roping team has attracted some attention with their success over the past few months. Sterling will soon be sponsored by two major companies. He will also be featured in the Western Horseman early next year and there are talks of a TV appearance in the coming months.
"I'm not the type of person to get all worked up by this attention; I just look at it as a blessing straight from God," Sterling said. "I'm just a representative of the Air Force, and I think this is a great opportunity for the Air Force to get its name out there."
Sterling received a permissive temporary duty extension to continue competing in upcoming rodeo events.
"I've had a lot of support from everybody," he said. "Ken Hack has been instrumental in helping me out. God has put it in their hearts to allow me to keep doing what I'm doing. TDY hasn't been a problem at all. Right now I update my supervisor every Monday of my location and progress."
For Sterling, the Dodge City rodeo has been the highlight of his journey.
"Placing in Dodge City was great," he said. "It was a big rodeo, so to place in front of all of those people was not just a big accomplishment for me and my dad, but for the Air Force as well."
While Sterling has been very thankful for this experience, it has not been without its adversity.
"The toughest part of all this has to be the slack in the morning after driving all night," the Airman said. "You have to drive all night to get to the next rodeo, and you get maybe two or three hours of sleep and then you have to be ready to rope first thing in the morning."
This happens to Sterling two or three days out of the week. He will be competing in rodeos in Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado through the rest of September.
"When times get hard you just have to keep going," Sterling said. "Out here on the rodeo circuit you can get down real quick, but you have just to keep going through it. You have just to have faith that things are going to change and when it does, it's all worth it."