180th TB Conducts Truck Rodeo

Story and photos by Sgt. Joel F. Gibson
13th SC(E) Public Affairs Office

FORT HOOD, Texas — Soldiers of the 180th Transportation Battalion completed a truck rodeo here Nov. 29.

The event culminated when the participating units matched skills in heavy equipment transfer vehicles after competing in everything from humvees to wreckers.

“We basically spent about three months planning the event,” said Capt. Sarah E. Comeau, Battalion Operations Officer, 180th TB, “The units who are taking part in this competition are Headquarters, 180th, 154th Palletized Loading System Company, 406th Trailer Transfer Detachment, 96th Transportation Company, and the 263rd Maintenance Company.”

“This is good to build morale between platoons; we get to see who the best is,” said Sgt. Reginald Rhodes, a driver with the 96th Transportation Company.

The command team, and Soldiers of the battalion looked at the event as an important tool in preparing for future deployments.

“I really wanted the battalion to conduct a truck rodeo to support drivers training, emphasize safety, and focus on our wartime mission…truck driving,” said Lt. Col. Mark A. Paget, commander of the 180th.

“I think from the planning side this will really help us get ready to go downrange,” Comeau said, “The testing will really help the Soldiers’ skills downrange, if they can successfully navigate this course that should be a good indicator of their abilities in a wartime situation.”

“I think it provides a bit of cohesion because of the competition, but it also helps us to hone our driving skills,” said Spc. David B. Dick, a Driver with the 96th, “There are a lot of tight turns downrange.”

“I’ve deployed with the 96th three times, and I think this competition is a really good time, and helps Soldiers to hone our skills,” said Dick.

Each level of the competition consisted of lanes testing the driving skills of the Soldiers involved.

“The diminishing clearance lane starts out wide and slowly narrows,” said Pvt. Zach Meier, a driver with 154th Transportation Company and native of Weatherford, Texas, “The driver has to navigate the lane as it narrows without knocking over any of the cones that line the sides.”

After finishing the diminishing clearance lane, Soldiers performed the straight line backup test.

“When the drivers do the straight line backup lane, they pull straight up to the far cone in the diminishing clearance lane and back straight up to the start point without hitting any cones,” said Spc. Guy Prichard, a driver with the 96th.

After performing the straight line backup test, Soldiers pulled back through the diminishing clearance lane and entered the left turn-right turn lane.

Pvt. Jamie S. Robinson, a driver with the 154th, and Rushville, Indiana native, explains the left turn-right turn lane, “The main purpose of the left turn-right turn lane is to show the skill at navigating turns at the greatest speed possible.”

“A lot of people take it for granted, but it’s a really important skill especially when you’re on a road with cars on both sides,” said Robinson.

After the turning lane, Soldiers entered the serpentine.

“The serpentine is four cones set at certain distances from one another, with each one closer than the last,” said Pvt. Joshua Davidson, a quartermaster and chemical equipment repair specialist with the 154th, and Traskwood, Ark. native, “The idea is to navigate between the cones without hitting them.”

After the competitors navigated the serpentine, they pulled into the most heavily watched lane, the controlled braking lane.

“Basically, during the controlled stop lane, the drivers start about 100 meters from the cone wall,” said Pvt. Kevin M. Miller, a driver with the 154th and native of Georgetown, Texas, “They take off to a designated speed and put on their brakes.”

Miller added, “The drivers are not supposed to fishtail their trucks or slide, just do a nice controlled stop as close to the cones as possible.”

The winners of the competition represented the 154th and the 96th, with the 154th taking three out of five categories.

The winner of the wrecker category was Spc. Michael Bryant a mechanic with the 96th. The other winner from the 96th was Staff Sgt. Steven Olenick, a driver and squad leader, and winner of the HET category of the competition.

Sgt. Jeremy Baxter, a driver with the 154th, took the palletized loading system category award home with him. Pfc. Jason Desjardin, also a driver with the 154th won the humvee category.

Taking top honors in the competition was Baxter, who was named 180th “King of the Road.”

Paget summed up the event, “It’s a worthwhile effort because the Soldiers love competing, and it makes training fun.”