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Cultures blend together at Rodeo 2007: Participants draw from global life-experiences

Maj. Jamal Al Awani, left, United Arab Emirates Rodeo team commander, talks with Maj. John Caplinger, a pilot from the 10th Airlift Squadron, at the UAE tent at Rainier Ranch recently.  The UAE team is competing in Rodeo 2007.

Maj. Jamal Al Awani, left, United Arab Emirates Rodeo team commander, talks with Maj. John Caplinger, a pilot from the 10th Airlift Squadron, at the UAE tent at Rainier Ranch recently. The UAE team is competing in Rodeo 2007.

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- On the outside, the United Arab Emirates' tent looks just like the 20-or-so others dotting Rainier Ranch, the off-duty area for the 2007 Air Mobility Command Rodeo competition. 

But the similarities end when the front flap of the olive-green tent is opened. In a scene that could best be summarized as an Arabian bazaar meets Western bling-bling, two worlds -- and strong mobility partners -- effortlessly blend together inside. 

Persian rugs, decorative lamps and a wall lined with Arabian cushions are contrasted by the human element, most notably the younger members of the UAE Rodeo team. Chatting on cell phones, they could fit in at any American shopping mall had they not been wearing their UAE military uniforms. Cultural fusion is an integral part of Rodeo, where nations from all over the world band together to share airlift tactics andstrengthen interpersonal bonds.
 
"Each team brings in a part of their culture to share with us. All of the international partners are vital -- it all goes to relationship building," said Bruce Balbin, AMC international relations advisor. "We're here for the experience -- to get to know other people from different nations so we can plan for the next few [Rodeo] competitions," said Maj. Jamal Al Awani, commander of the UAE team. 

Although Major Al Awani -- a C-130H Hercules pilot for 14 years -- has flown combat airlift missions side-by-side with Airmen from the U.S. Air Force in Afghanistan, he noted that many in his crew are new to a multicultural mission. 

"This is a big experience for all the crew, but especially for the new members," he said. If history is any indication of how successfully teams from different countries have implemented lessons they've learned at Rodeo, then the UAE may have a lot to look forward to. 

At Rodeo 2005, teams from the United States, Brazil, France and the United Kingdom worked together to teach the Pakistan team about airlift mission procedures and standards. 

"Pakistan had never done a combat off-load or engine running off-load and they asked us how we do it and what kind of timing is needed," said Chief Magno Ney, Brazilian team veteran. 

"We learned a lot from the previous Rodeo working with the other teams, and this year we are competing in those events," said Lt. Col. Rizvi Mazha, Pakistan wing commander.
Competition is often tough at Rodeo and rivalries sometimes arise, but the reason for the international event is to create better airlift capabilities. 

"We already had airlift procedures before coming to Rodeo, but working with others, we found our weaknesses, corrected them and then implemented the changes," Colonel Mazhar said. 

Aside from presenting the opportunity to hone combat airlift skills, Rodeo is a venue where cultures blend together on the human scale. At the end of each day's competitions, Rainier Ranch becomes a giant cultural blender, where teams from all over the world get together.
(Senior Airman Desiree Kiliz contributed to this story.)