Sustainment Rodeo shows off Soldier skills

Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to Danville-based 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team participate in a vehicle obstacle course during a Sustainment Rodeo Aug. 9, 2017, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti)

FORT PICKETT, Va.  — Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to Danville-based 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team participated in vehicle obstacle courses, basic Soldier tasks and challenges during the Sustainment Rodeo, Aug. 6-10, 2017 at Fort Pickett, Virginia.

Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Danville-based 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team take part in the second day of the Sustainment Rodeo Aug. 7, 2017, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. (U.S. National Guard photo by Cotton Puryear)

“They call this a truck rodeo,” said Staff Sgt. Edward Ballou, assigned to South Boston-based Alpha Company, 429th BSB, 116th IBCT. He pointed to a M1083 Long Term Armored Strategy, or LTAS 2.5-ton truck as it began a serpentine maneuver between cones lined closely together on the pavement. “They have to do right and left-hand turns, docking, parallel parking and a serpentine.”

Ballou explained it’s a competition between Soldiers to see who can overcome the obstacles in the least amount of time without error, or knocking down cones. This obstacle course was one of many the Soldiers have completed during their two-week annual training.

“We started our Sustainment Rodeo on Sunday,” said 1st Sgt. Brad E. Keefer, assigned to Lynchburg-based Golf Company, 429th BSB, 116th IBCT. The first day consisted of a troubleshooting obstacle course at Fort Pickett’s Maneuver Area Training Equipment Site, or MATES. Each vehicle had a different challenge for the Soldiers to troubleshoot, which ranged from electrical to mechanical.

“They were allowed to use the MSD, the Maintenance Support Device,” Keefer said. The MSD contains the technical manuals for each type of vehicle providing basic information, preventative maintenance tasks and checklists of issues and corrective actions. “As long as they follow it step-by-step and do it safely, they’ll get a go.”

Each day promoted improvement on individual Soldier and military occupation specialty skills. The next obstacle course was mounted land navigation with real world challenges at each point the truck crews found on the map. The Soldiers changed tires on light medium tactical vehicles, recovered a vehicle from a mud pit, and up-righted an over-turned vehicle from its side.
“This is the first time for some of these Soldiers to get behind the wheel of a truck,” he said. The Sustainment Rodeo is an opportunity to improve Soldier skill sets, provide familiarization on weapons, vehicles, and common procedures such as vehicle recovery, and promote healthy competition, according to Keefer. “It’s been good training.”

Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team compete in a brigade-level cooking competition Aug. 10, 2017, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Amanda H. Johnson)

The two-week annual training finished off with a final competition between culinary specialists split into three teams to serve up the best quality food for the entire brigade. Teams of cooks turned up the heat in competition as hungry Soldiers descended from the brigade formation.

“We spent about three hours beforehand getting the meal prepared and two hours on hot food,” said Sgt. Day Lomax assigned to Winchester-based Hotel Company, 429th BSB, 116th IBCT. “The air conditioning unit in our [containerized kitchen] was broken, so it felt like 130 degrees in it.”

During annual training, Lomax’s team pulled double shifts cooking and serving food while still conducting required training. Her team consisted of five cooks and a food operations sergeant.

“I was genuinely impressed and astonished by the high level of morale on the day of the cook-off from our cooks,” she said. Her team served braised pork chops, peas and mushrooms and mashed potatoes. “They made me very proud.”



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