First time in over a decade: 62d AW hosts Port Dawg Rodeo

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Callie Norton
  • 62d Airlift Wing Public Affairs

For the first time in over a decade, the 62d Airlift Wing hosted 14 teams of aerial port professionals during the Port Dawg Rodeo at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, June 22-24, 2022.

The rodeo is an annual tradition amongst aerial port squadrons, where Airmen showcase their skills, enhance their job proficiency and have a little bit of competitive fun in the process.

This year’s competition was steep as Port Dawg teams hailed from Ramstein Air Base, Germany; Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey; Yokota Air Base, Japan; Kadena Air Base, Japan; Little Rock Air Base, Arkansas; Travis Air Force Base, California; Pope Field, North Carolina; Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina; Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii; Joint Base Andrews, Maryland; and MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.

Team McChord’s neighbors of the North were also in attendance, the 2 Air Movement Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force. The rodeo presented a welcomed opportunity to strengthen international relations with our allies.

Aerial port squadrons are responsible for logistical functions of the aerial delivery mission including the rigging loading and recovering of airdrop equipment, as well as processing personnel and household goods. APS Airmen have a dedication to air transportation and are experts in their craft.

Airmen were judged in five areas throughout the rodeo – a center of balance marking and knowledge test, an aircraft upload, a 10k forklift skills course, a pallet build-up, and a combat fitness challenge.

Day one of the three-day competition was comprised of the center of balance marking of a light medium tactical vehicle in order to project weight distribution for the vehicle to be loaded properly onto a C-17 Globemaster III, as well as the knowledge test.

“The knowledge test contained 50 questions directly from the 2T2 Air Force Specialty Code Air Force Instruction,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. David Lauritzen, air terminal operations center flight chief with the 62d APS. “[It challenges] one member from each team to think on the fly and prove their competency of the air transportation mission.”

Moving into day two of the rodeo, participants were put to the test with three challenging events: the 10k forklift skills course, a pallet build-up and the aircraft upload.

One of the first vehicles new APS Airmen learn to drive and be certified on is the 10k forklift, so it is only natural that driving it through an obstacle course be included as a staple challenge in the Port Dawg Rodeo.

“The 10k forklift is a common vehicle that we use to make sure cargo gets on k-loaders, into docks and onto aircraft,” Lauritzen said. “We use the 10k to challenge people’s ability to drive, which is a big function of our career field.”

The pallet build-up challenge required all the proper documentation for simulated cargo with multiple curves balls, including some cargo that didn’t meet transportation priority.

“It was great to see how people thought on their feet during the pallet build-up,” Lauritzen said. “It is a competition, but ultimately we want to see teams pay attention to details in order for the pallet to be built properly so no cargo would get damaged.”

Participants ended the day by ensuring a 25k-loader Halvorsen was safely secured onto a C-17, which is no easy task.

“Safety of flight is the number one priority for us and our job is to make sure aircraft are leaving this ground and the souls on board are safe,” Lauritzen said. “We’re protecting our assets and Airmen across the Air Force.”

Arguably the toughest mental and physical challenge of the week landed on the final day of the rodeo; the combat fitness skill course.

“It is a beast for these participants,” Lauritzen said. “You go at the pace of your slowest member so teamwork is crucial to complete the various aspects of this course.”

The combat fitness skills course included a tire flip, chain drag, unexploded ordinance finding, litter carry and truck push along with a 2.8 mile route ran by each team.

After a grueling week of challenges, the 621st Contingency Response Group assigned to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, took home the win and earned the title of “Top Dawgs.”  

Port Dawgs are truly jacks of all trades – servicing aircraft with lavatories, expendables for aircrews and passengers, load planning, operating the passenger terminal, air freight cargo handling, ramp services, special handling of classified material and the air terminal operations center which oversees it all. 

“While multi-capable Airmen is something that the Air Force is really focused on right now, we have been fairly multi-capable for a long time,” Lauritzen said.

By putting their various skills to the test in a competitive environment, Port Dawgs not only push their personal limits, but their professional limits as well.

“Airmen are going to receive a great sense of accomplishment out of participating in this large scale event,” said 2nd Lt. Jason Chase, air traffic operations center flight commander with the 62d APS. “Networking is also a huge aspect, meeting other Port Dawgs from all over will help increase their work productivity and share what they learn with their peers.”