Pakistani Air Force Capt. Asif Jah touched down at Joint Base Lewis-McChord this week planning to square off in a friendly contest among air crews from 30 nations.
A visa hang-up all but ensured the flight surgeon would be relegated to the bleacher seats at the Air Mobility Rodeo. His crew was left in Pakistan, meaning he wouldn’t have the bodies he needed to compete.
Enter team “Pakichord.”
Four Lewis-McChord airmen from the 446th Reserve Airlift Wing stepped up and made a crew at the last minute to support Jah while trying their own hands in the rodeo.
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Their collaboration took the international spirit of the rodeo’s 3,000 participants to a different level.
Normally, crews from different countries like hanging around with each other, but they still want the bragging rights from winning.
This time, American airmen shouted “Team Pakistan!” as they prepped for their competitions and sought to run their drills as fast as opponents who’ve been training to win the rodeo for months.
“I’m very proud of my guys,” said Col. Jan Moore-Harbert, who leads the airmen who volunteered to work with the Pakistani surgeon.
This year’s rodeo will wrap up today, and closing ceremonies are planned for Friday.
It’s a popular event for airmen, who see it as a chance to test themselves, connect with friends from other bases and relax with service members from around the world.
“It’s a big Air Force, but a small world,” said Lt. Col. Air Force Anna Sullivan, spokeswoman for Lewis-McChord’s 446th wing.
Crews from different air fields set up tents and bring tasty trappings from home.
California’s Travis Air Base, for example, came with Sierra Nevada beer. Saudi Arabia’s air force served chai from a lush tent decked out with red rugs. Belgians brought cheese from home.
“It’s just such a good sense of camaraderie,” said Staff Sgt. Holly Cordova, 27, of Puyallup.
Cordova’s been training for the rodeo since March. The intensity of her workouts took two minutes off a timed 1.5 mile-run.
It also honed her ability to swiftly pack and unload an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III. That’s one of her core jobs in delivering materials to military bases around the world.
Jah, the Pakistani surgeon, gained a crew of reserve airmen who weren’t exactly practicing for the rodeo. That meant putting themselves on the line to get clobbered by opponents who have been training for months.
Still, his crew had plenty of experience setting up hospitals in flight and caring for sick and wounded patients. They were judged on how fast they could prepare for the mission and carry out different tasks in the air.
Jah’s “excited about learning, but we still wanted to give him a fair shot,” said Chief Master Sgt. Saudi Mcvea of the 446th wing.
Jah told an Air Force writer he thought highly of his four volunteers.
“They were a great help,” he said. “They took the training very seriously, and they really took the time to teach me.”
They weren’t available Wednesday for interviews with The News Tribune.
Moore-Harbert, who leads the 446th’s aeromedical evacuation squadron, said the exercise could pay off later if American airmen needed to work on joint crews with service members from other countries.
“The more you train together, the more you increase survivability,” she said.
Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646 firstname.lastname@example.org