By Staff Sgt. Nestor Cruz
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Team Little Rock had another reason to wave their hats in the air and shout “Yee haw!” when members of the 314th Airlift Wing’s RODEO 2011 team came home Saturday with six trophies garnered from the Air Mobility RODEO competition held at McChord Field, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
Maintainers and flyers from the team lassoed up the Best C-130 Maintenance Team award, Best Maintenance Skills Team award, Best C-130 Maintenance Skills Team award, Bets C-130 Aircrew (C-130E) award, Best C-130 Air Drop Team (C-130E) award and Best C-130 Wing.
“It felt awesome,” said Maj. Jacob Sheddan, 62nd Airlift Squadron assistant director of operations and 314th Airlift Wing RODEO 2011 team chief, speaking about the moment the awards were announced during the awards ceremony. “This is not only a 314th AW win, it’s also a 19th Airlift Wing and Team Little Rock win.”
Sheddan said winning the RODEO awards would not have been possible without the strong partnership between the two wings and the local community.
“We have a fantastic support structure here with the partner relationships that we’ve got with the 19th AW,” said Sheddan. “There are a couple of people on the 19th side I will thank profusely and personally for their work behind the scenes in order to make sure we got what we needed when we needed it, and also to the Airpower Arkansas committee and our local civic leaders. We couldn’t have done it without the 19th AW and we certainly couldn’t have done it without the community involvement we have, which is absolutely fantastic.”
Wing leaders share that same sentiment, giving credit to both team members and their partners.
“We know how much we rely on our partners in the 19th AW. The Black Knights provide us with A-1 support,” said Col. Mark Czelusta, 314th AW commander. “We could not be successful without support across the entire spectrum of organizations that help us meet our mission from operations support to the maintenance backshops.
“This team was a very special team from both the Legacy and J-model formal training units and aircraft maintenance units,” Colonel Czelusta added. “I am humbled to serve with such great Airmen. Our nation deserves them and every day I consider myself the luckiest commander alive.”
Team members discovered that winning at the RODEO proved to be as challenging as a real-world mission.
“As with any operation or exercise, you’re gonna have some hiccups,” said Sheddan. “One of the issues that we had was a maintenance issue on an aircraft … and calling to reschedule our airdrop because we certainly didn’t want to take zero points. So making sure that the part arrived on time and resetting the aircrew was like building a house of cards.”
Sheddan said he relied on instincts to gauge his team’s standing as the competition progressed.
“We read the reaction of the judges we had with us in order to gauge our performance,” said Sheddan. “We know many of the other teams there because we’ve either been stationed with them, taught them or deployed with them at one point. So we tried to chitchat with each other, but the other teams were trying to be nonchalant in discussions of how they were doing, so we had to go with our gut instinct.
“We had good indications from the judges and our co-competitors,” he added. “The morning of the awards day, when we got the airdrop [award] then the aircrew award, that certainly led us down the road that we were going to be earning the best C-130 wing [award], the General Joe W. Kelly Trophy.”
Following the awards ceremony, Sheddan said he was congratulated by his wing commander.
“Colonel Czelusta congratulated me for an awesome job of getting the team together and making sure they had what they needed [to succeed],” said Sheddan. “[Colonel Czelusta] told me ‘Jake, you nailed it.’”