August 4, 2000

Ocampo Shows His Grit in Air Force Rodeo

By Andre' Sanders

Pope Air Force Base, N.C. — Since the time frontiersmen roamed the Old West, the rodeo has been a spectacle of cattle roping and steer wrestling —a way to prove oneself. While no cowboy, the son of a San Diego couple recently competed in a rodeo of his own, but one rifle with machine gun fire and the rumble of heavy aircraft engines to remind him there's more at stake than a blue ribbon.

Army Spec. Gilberto Ocampo, son of Gilberto and Julia Ocampo, 3427 Euclid Ave., San Diego, was recently at Pope Air Force Base, N.C., participating in the Air Mobility Expeditionary Rodeo 2000. The AME Rodeo is the Air Force's biennial readiness competition held to improve its ability to deploy airmen into hostile environments, establish a defensive presence and recover wounded.

Army Spec. Gilberto Ocampo prepares to lift a litter with a dummy patient on it during an aeromedical evacuation competition at the Air Expeditionary Rodeo 2000.

The lure of competition brought Ocampo from Fort Bragg, N.C. "I normally work as a vehicle mechanic, said Ocampo, a 1997 graduate of Samuel F.B. Morse High School. "I do maintenance on Humvee tactical vehicles to keep them up to Army standards."

Competing in the Rodeo made Ocampo a part of a 38-year-old military tradition. The Rodeo began as a small combat skills competition in 1962 and has grown into a competition featuring 100 teams, 2,500 competitors and 80 aircraft from 20 different countries. Each team boasts the best pilots, mechanics, refuelers, special tactics teams, security police and loadmasters from their respective bases.

The high level of competition at the AME Rodeo prompted Ocampo and his teammates to train for the aeromedical evacuation competition ahead of time.

"I spent three hours learning how to properly carry a wounded person and a casualty," said Ocampo.

With no shortage of events to undertake, the Rodeo showcased airdrop, air refueling and ground combat competitions, and provided an opportunity for the participants to improve procedures and enhance standardization of worldwide operations.

Ocampo and his teammates supported the 17 international teams that took part in the aeromedical competitions. During the competition, the five-member aeromedical evacuation team had to convert the cargo area of a C-14 cargo aircraft into an aeromedical evacuation aircraft. The Army contingency was then timed on how quickly and safely they accomplish their portion of the competitions.

"I helped load patients onto an aircraft during an aeromedical evacuation competition," said Ocampo.

There were no horses or cattle to round up in the AME Rodeo, but in a roundup of the best air mobility specialists in the world, Ocampo proved he deserves to stand apart from the herd.

Return to Frontpage