Department of Defense

End Airlift Rodeo: A Luxury in Austere Times

Air Mobility Command Rodeo is a biennial competition where aircrews, ground crews, and support personnel showcase their capabilities. The competition does little to enhance USAF warfighting. Having participated as a Team Commander, I learned nothing at Rodeo I didn't already know. What the competition really does is it provides a veil of legitimacy behind which is hidden enormous waste. A few thousand Airmen (to include most assigned to McChord Field) find themselves participating as competitors, judges, "wranglers" who pick up trash, serve food, serve beer, or escort VIPs....not to mention the incredible drain on organizational focus as hundreds of officers coordinate the handling of dozens of Generals, Executives, and other DVs. Don't get me wrong: Rodeo is fun, and arguments can certainly be made about the camaraderie it creates and the pageantry it entails. It's a tradition. But the cost/benefit analysis demonstrates a losing case. We gain very little at very high cost, and inappropriate trade-offs are made whereby Rodeo gets resources and manpower that should be doing other things. It also creates a perception problem for the command. Tens of thousands of Airmen in the command are deployed, living away from family in austere environments and limited to no more than 3 beers a day. Meanwhile, virtually every General and dozens of Colonels from the command are gathered together for what amounts to a huge party, sloshed with unlimited booze and unfathomable excess. It's creating resentment in the command, which is why just about every squadron commander I know has recommended it be put on hold until the wars have ended. Putting aside the moral questions, the government could save millions in manpower, fuel costs, and travel funds by ending Rodeo or doubling its execution interval to every 4 years.

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Idea No. 6821