One of the oldest adages in the Air Force is “Hurry up and wait.” It’s where you are told you need to be somewhere and you hurry to get there on time, but end up waiting around once you’re there. Monday was one of those days.
We met up at 8:15am and hurried up to the base for the first event, a cargo drop from the aircraft over the airfield. I was very excited to see the March ARB team finally in the air! As we drove there, yesterday’s beautiful 80 degree and bright clear skies was replaced with dark clouds and a cold wind.
With an event this big, one of the major challenges is the trickle down of information when things change. Say for example, there is no one central place to go for the latest up to date schedule…or at least there wasn’t one I could find. So that leaves you with a frustrating feeling that you don’t know where to be or when to be there.
And as it turned out, due to the low clouds, rain and a lightning strike, the air drop competition had been cancelled, but we didn’t find out until well after the scheduled time. Safety being one of the major goals here at Rodeo, it was understandable to err on the side of caution and 110% the right call to make.
So after wandering around looking for where this mythical drop zone, where the cargo that the planes dropped lands, in the rain, we retreated to a table in the big welcome hangar. Back to square one and wait.
After a lot of phone calls and asking random people walking by for information, we finally learned of the cancellation and decided to go to see if we could find something, anything to shoot so the day wasn’t a waste. Should it really be that hard?
The next event that March ARB was scheduled to compete in was the ERO (Engine Running Onload) competition over in Hangar 10 where an aircraft pulls up with it’s engines on, and an Aerial Port Team scrambles to load a vehicle and some cargo onboard as quickly, and safely as possible. So we decided to go over there hoping for some better luck.
This competition requires the Port Team to work closely with the Loadmaster of the airplane to get it loaded and make sure the center of gravity is correct. Some of the team drives the vehicles while others guide them into precise position.
Not to mention, you don’t want to back something into the aircraft and damage it. The second half of the challenge is to safely offload the cargo and vehicle.
It is quite a sight to see. Even those countries not participating in the competition this year closely observed to gain valuable knowledge. It’s one thing to read about it in a syllabus, but a whole nother thing to hear the engines screaming, heat exhaust suffocating, and a the pressure of a stopwatch over your shoulder.
And in what seemed to the the theme of the day, it was a lot of hurry up and wait with a splash of miscommunication. The earlier cancellation had scrambled the schedule worst then eggs for breakfast.
When you have over 3,000 Airmen from across U.S. Air Force, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, you need a very large team to wrangle everyone and put together a set of rules that everyone adheres to. But with “X” amount of people in charge, you get the classic case of too many cooks in the kitchen.
One group of people gets to do something, and another does not. Why? Just because we asked the wrong person? But what if one chef says yes, and then we come to find out that another chef from another group decides on a whim that it should be a no?
Well, that is what I experienced today and it got someone in trouble. Ask three different people who are ‘in charge’, and you get three different answers. “But that wasn’t the right person in charge.” Ok, fine. So then shouldn’t you let that be known to all of the Teams?
Nothing more frustrating to be told you can’t do something, then come back in a bit and another group is doing that very thing that you got scolded for in the first place.
But with this many people here, communication issues such as today is just a part of the event. Just like it would be in real life if groups of the U.S. Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard all were sent somewhere on short notice and told to work together. And afterall, this is why they have these exercised, to work out these miscommunication kinks.