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Spotter Bill Ames guides operator Frank Aldridge and his forklift to dunk a basketball into the barrel in the Safety Rodeo
Photo Credit: Michael Lucibella
Spotter Bill Ames guides operator Frank Aldridge and his forklift to dunk a basketball into the barrel in the Safety Rodeo.

Safety Rodeo Roundup

It was no ordinary heavy equipment safety lecture.

Bill Peterson (right) describes the course of the Safety Rodeo to the participants
Photo Credit: Michael Lucibella
Bill Peterson (right) describes the course of the Safety Rodeo to the participants.

On a windy Sunday afternoon, a crowd of McMurdo residents gathered at the cargo storage area above town to watch McMurdo Station’s first annual “Safety Rodeo.”

Two teams from Fleet Ops competed against each other, driving IT-28 Caterpillar loaders through an obstacle course while a crowd sitting in the grandstands cheered them on.

“What we’re trying to do is give a demonstration of safe operating equipment,” said Bill Peterson, McMurdo’s vehicle fleet manager who helped organize the event. “The rodeo gives everyone an idea of how the vehicles operate.”

Operator Frank Aldridge gets ready to navigate the rodeo's course
Photo Credit: Michael Lucibella
Operator Frank Aldridge gets ready to navigate the rodeo's course.

Bob DeValentino, the McMurdo operations manager also helped organize the rodeo. He said that he hoped station residents would come away with “a much more expanded appreciation of what an operator sees and can’t see from the vehicle… and how conscientious and skilled the vehicle operators are.”

The event was held in preparation for the upcoming vessel offload, when fleet ops kicks into high gear and loaders and other heavy equipment will be running almost nonstop around town. The rodeo’s safety message emphasized safe driving techniques to vehicle operators as well as situational awareness of the machines to all McMurdo residents.

In addition to obstacles to avoid, the course featured a number of tasks the operators needed to accomplish using their machines. They tested their skills by picking up and dunking a basketball using the forklift and bucket loader attachments on the vehicles, carrying a bucket of water without spilling any and parking the vehicle as close to a traffic cone as possible without touching it.

“It adds a little bit of fun into it, but it’s still the same kinds of operations that they do every day,” Peterson said.

Operator Tyonek McAdams receives the award for the loader bucket competition from operations manager Jeff Huffman
Photo Credit: Michael Lucibella
Operator Tyonek McAdams receives the award for the loader bucket competition from operations manager Jeff Huffman.

Next to the grandstands were static displays of half a dozen vehicles, including several smaller loaders, an ambulance and firetruck. Each display had an informational poster that highlighted safety features and alerted residents to blind spots to watch out for.

“It was a good kind of seed event for what we’re hoping to expand upon in the coming years,” DeValentino said.

Operator Frank Aldridge and spotter Bill Ames won the forklift competition, while operator Tyonek McAdams and spotter Mel Sannes won the loader bucket competition.

“It’s all my dreams come true,” McAdams joked. “I would go to Disneyland, but instead I came here.”

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Curator: Michael Lucibella, Antarctic Support Contract | NSF Official: Peter West, Office of Polar Programs