As waves of moderate and light precipitation pitter patter on a training course, Airmen gather with the look of determination, concentration and joy as the 3rd Annual Ground Transportation Rodeo takes place at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
The members of the Air Force Specialty Code 2T1X1, ground transportation, converged on the Army post to compete for bragging rights for the year to come. The playful exchange of banter and friendly rivalries were in the air, but also there was the added opportunity to meet and greet with experts and those viewed as wells of experience within the career field.
“When I reflect on the significance of this event and see the number of Air Force ground transporters assembled here today, my first thoughts turn to proverbs from the Bible, ‘as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another,’” said Lt. Col. Josh R. Aldred, 368th Training Squadron commander during the opening remarks of the day’s competition. “Iron has a historical meaning in our Air Force lexicon, in our Air Force we associate iron with the aircraft we use to fight and win. Iron is the most common element on earth. In fact, it’s so common, we need it to survive. We all have iron coursing through our blood right now.”
Airmen of wavering levels of experience and time in service listened as the commander spoke, they later internalized his words and had open dialog with each other. Airmen currently in technical school were embedded in teams of prior service Airmen and the free flow of information began.
“I will be competing in the tractor trailer competition,” said Airman 1st Class Ricardo Meza, 368th Training Squadron student. “I am the assistant driver. I have had an opportunity to receive some mentoring from my partner. He has been telling me stories about his experiences on the job and things that job will entail in the future. He has been guiding me, I would say.”
As Meza explained how he felt about the competition, his partner looked on and listened to him, a smile on his face. Although they had only met that day, unless told otherwise, passersby could mistake the two for old friends.
“Interacting with the trainees coming into the career field is great in my opinion,” Airman 1st Class Mason Hedrick, 509th Logistics Readiness Squadron ground transportation, said with a twinkle in his eye looking to Meza as if a doting older brother. “They get an opportunity to learn what it is like to be in to the operational Air Force. We get to talk, and they can chat with NCOs, they can get that background of how NCOs work operationally.
“They just came from Basic Military Training and they may be a little shaken up, and they get a chance to have a little bit of fun and interact with people in a more normal manner,” he said chuckling.
It could be plainly seen that the earlier words of Aldred were still resonating within them and the message of fraternity coursed through their veins as the iron personified.
“Prior to the Iron Age, limited quantities of tin and copper prevented the establishment of large militaries dependent on bronze weapons,” Aldred continued. “However, iron was a relativity plain and common mineral crying out for a purpose. Three thousand years ago, blacksmiths realized that iron could be heated, molded and sharpened to create a new weapon system.
“The new abundance of iron weapons led to the creation of well trained and professional militaries,” Aldred went on “Instead of projecting power several hundred miles, large militaries can now project power thousands of miles. This change in warfare drove the creation of a new weapon system – transportation.”
As Meza and Hedrick continued reflecting on what they will be doing and what they have done, a true love and passion for their body of work was obvious on their faces with grins from ear to ear.
“I am very excited to become operational,” Meza said. “I want to get to that state as fast as possible. The facet of the job I look forward to the most with the career field is Distinguished Visitors runs. I’m pretty excited for that. Getting a chance to meet and drive around generals and foreign dignitaries is an honor. I think it’s going to be pretty fun to do that and also I find it to be pretty important because they see you and you get an chance to serve as a representative of the Air Force and enlisted Airmen as a whole.”
Meza stood tall speaking with pride, although young in his Air Force career, he spoke with the confidence of a seasoned ground transporter -- a future cog in the Air Force machine.
“You are a weapon system, you are the iron the Air Force needs, and you are the iron of our nation,” Aldred explained. “Our nation needs you to be sharp, ready and lethal. I challenge you to take this weekend to take the time to sharpen each other. Take this time to reflect where your edge needs attention. I must remind you that the best sharpening tools have been developed by the application of heat and pressure. You might need a harder, tougher material to sharpen your edge.
“I encourage you to seek out the knowledge and experience of our seasoned transporters, many of whom are here today. Listen to them, remember their stories and use this exercise to sharpen others when you leave here. We are excited you are here, be safe, have fun and be ready to fight tonight,” Aldred concluded.