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Premier air mobility event kicks off

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MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. (USTCNS) --- "Ladies and gentlemen, let the fight begin - Rodeo's on!"

Brig. Gen. Scott Gray kicked off the Rodeo 2005 competition with those words Sunday when Rodeo participants and observers gathered on the flightline here for the Air Mobility Rodeo 2005 opening ceremony.

Rodeo participants stood in formation and hundreds of observers stood behind them, sat in bleachers or camped out on the Rainier Ranch hill that overlooked the gathering.

The ceremony began with the official party riding out of the bay of a C-17 aircraft in an Army Stryker vehicle.

The officials included Gen. John W. Handy, commander of the Air Mobility Command; Brig. Gen. Scott Gray, Rodeo 2005 commander; Col. Wayne Schatz, 62nd Airlift Wing commander; Col. Murry Peterman, vice commander of the 446th Airlift Wing; and Col. Mike Hanson from Fort Lewis.

Capt. Michael Jensen, a special tactics officer from McChord Air Force Base, parachuted from 10,000 feet to deliver the U.S. flag to a horse-mounted flag bearer.

During the ceremony, General Handy encouraged the competitors to compete hard, play hard, enjoy themselves, but most importantly, fly safe. He emphasized that each and every one of the troops are winners and their experiences at this Rodeo will serve them well in the future.

General Gray said it was his honor to serve as the Rodeo commander and congratulated each competitor on earning the right to wear the uniform and represent the best of the best.

He presented General Handy with a Rodeo 2005 coin.

"We're here to learn, make new friends and have some competition," said General Gray. "Let the fight begin! Rodeo's on!"

Three McChord Air Force Base C-17s performed a flyover, ending the ceremony.

Rodeo -- Air Mobility Command's international competition that focuses on improving the skills of air mobility professionals -- showcases airdrop, air refueling, aeromedical evacuation, security forces procedures, short-field landings and related ground operations. The world's best aerial refuelers and airlifters demonstrate their capabilities, improve procedures, compare notes, and enhance standardization for worldwide operations.

The competition generates enthusiasm among United States competitors as well as allied nations. Rodeo enhances teamwork and positive relations among the participants.

Rodeo's roots began in 1962 as a combat skills competition designed to develop and improve how air mobility forces operated, and to promote esprit de corps. In 1979, Rodeo was expanded to include international air mobility partners.

Rodeo tests the flight and ground skills of aircrews and aeromedical evacuation personnel as well as the related skills of ground support teams like security forces, aerial port operations and maintenance. It also provides valuable joint and combined training for all participants.

An important long-term benefit is increased cooperation between air mobility forces from several nations. Spirited competition furthers that aim, while strengthening the mutual goals and bonds of friendship developed between competing teams.

Previous competitions (the last one was held at Pope AFB, N.C. in 2000) have attracted up to 2,500 competitors. In addition, several countries send crews to observe, but not compete in the events.

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