96th Transportation Company Soldiers Match Skills During Truck Rodeo

By 1st Lt. Elsa Gerdes
96th Transportation Company

CAMP TAJI, Iraq — More than 80 Soldiers of the 96th Transportation Company, 419th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 10th Sustainment Brigade, recently showed off their driving abilities during a truck rodeo. The event remained open for a week in order to allow all Soldiers to compete after finishing their missions.

The competition was held during the hours of darkness and involved driving challenges similar to those that the Soldiers experience on real-world missions while in Iraq. Company-level leaders spent two months planning and gathering input to ensure the event represented the obstacles that drivers encounter while on mission. Many drivers who went through the course felt the course was harder than the real-world obstacles.

Platoon sergeant of 2nd Platoon, Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wardale from Hollandale, Miss., said his Soldiers “enjoyed the friendly competiveness and the collective events which added to the challenge.”

The participating Soldiers matched skills in their knowledge and driving abilities based on their experience level and military occupational skill. The teams were matched as they are when they are on mission, with experience levels split between experienced and novice operators for both 88Ms and 63Bs. The 88Ms had to maneuver the Heavy Equipment Transport system while loaded and the 63Bs had to haul a fully-loaded HET with a wrecker through the course.

The challenges included: preventive maintenance check(s) and service(s) of vehicles, recovering a vehicle, proper tie-down procedures for equipment on a HET trailer, negotiating through the serpentine, offset passage, narrow passage, straight-line backing and backing through the serpentine in the opposite direction. Soldiers of 1st Platoon said they enjoyed the experience of showing off skills, especially in the serpentine event. Many hope to have more events included in the next truck rodeo that will test more of their skills.

The Truckmaster of 96th Trans Co, Sgt. 1st Class Michelle Cunningham, of Indianapolis, felt “this competition combined all obstacles Soldiers face while on mission into one whole event. You can easily see how skillful the operators are … even the novice drivers are just as skillful as the experienced drivers.”

The winners and runners-up were announced on Jan. 2. From the maintenance platoon, Spc. Benjamin Golgart, a native of St. Peter, Minn., and Sgt. Sopheap Ros, from Long Beach, Calif., were the winners. New Orleans native, Sgt. Joe Moore, and Killeen, Texas, native, Cpl. Dennis Spiller were runners-up. The experienced drivers of the HET system were David Dick, Belleville, Ill., native, and 2nd Lt. Otto Vindekilde, from Missouri City, Texas. The runners-up were Fredericksburg, Texas, native Sgt. Patrick Hodges, and Spc. Andrew Gardener, a native of West Brannen, Iowa. The novice drivers of the HET system were Spc. Joseph Wright, a native of Marion, Ind., and Dallas native Cpl. Demetrio Talevera. The runners-up were Ozone Park, N.Y., native, Spc. James Clement, and Sgt. Casey Nash of Killeen, Texas.


winners and runners up in the Truck Rodeo
(From left to right) Cpl. Demetrio Talavera from Dallas; Cpl. Joseph Wright from Marion, Ind.; Sgt. Patrick Hodges from Fredericksburg, Texas; Spc. Andrew Gardener from West Brannen, Iowa; Sgt. Sopheap Ros from Long Beach, Calif.; Spc. Benjamin Golgart from St. Peter, Minn.; Spc. James Clement from Ozone Park, N.Y.; 2nd Lt. Otto Vindekilde from Missouri City, Texas; David Dick from Belleville, Ill.; Sgt. Joe Moore from New Orleans and Cpl. Dennis Spiller from Killeen, Texas. These 96th Transportation Company, 419th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 10th Sustainment Brigade Soldiers are the winners and runners up in the Truck Rodeo received awards. (U.S. Army photo)