For a first sergeant who grew up in the suburbs of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, you might suppose a Texan would have seen a rodeo or two in his time. That wasn't in the cards until four years ago for Senior Master Sgt. Jay Hammond, first sergeant of the 388th Equipment Maintenance Squadron.
His first exposure to rodeo -- its sights and sounds and regalia -- came when his boss, who was a military liaison to the organizing committee, asked him to help out.
"I'll tell you what, it turned into something," he said. "There's nothing I would rather be doing on a hot July night in Ogden than Ogden Pioneer Days Rodeo."
It doesn't hurt that Hammond has decided that he looks great in a cowboy hat, but he adds quickly that he's most excited about the event itself.
"You'll find no more beautiful or scenic backdrop to a rodeo than this one probably anywhere in the nation -- it's spectacular," he said. "It gives you the feeling of the Old West. It's outdoors, too. Outdoor rodeos are somewhat of a dying breed.
"This particular rodeo has twice been named best rodeo in the Wilderness Circuit, which is Idaho, Nevada and Utah. Four times it's been nominated best in rodeo in all of the PRCA, or the Professional Rodeo (Cowboys Association). That makes it in the top 20 of over 700 rodeos nationwide -- consistently year after year in the voting," he added.
Tthe stadium has been renovated and this year the five-day rodeo and events associated with Pioneer Day will need more Team Hill volunteers than ever before. Seating is now assigned instead of general admission.
"It's a great opportunity for families to volunteer," Hammond said. "What makes this volunteer opportunity so appealing is that husbands and wives can volunteer together."
Those helping out do need to be at least 15 years old, because they are asked to be at the event from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
"We're there until the last cowboy rides," he said.
Hammond is also proud of the work put in by those who volunteer and help direct traffic. The area near the stadium is surrounded by two-lane roads and volunteers keep traffic flowing as they work not just in the parking lot but at some of the strategic points near the venue.
"Oftentimes there's another rodeo in Salt Lake going on at the same time," said Hammond. If traffic isn't moving smoothly, contestants aren't able to get their horse trailers out so they can make it to all the events.
Besides traffic control and ushering, there are plenty of other opportunities to volunteer. Assistance will be needed to hand out programs, work with the VIP area and other volunteers are posted closer to the arena and livestock areas.
"The people who put on this rodeo are very patriotic. They love what the military does and they're grateful for our service," said Hammond. "They go out of their way to show that."
Team Hill volunteers won't have to wear their uniforms, however, jeans are requested and T-shirts are provided. "If they're able to, they can dress the part," Hammond said explaining that cowboy boots and hats fit the bill.
Military/Veterans Appreciation Night will be Wednesday, July 21. Among events planned that night, Hill senior leaders will be present to enjoy the festivities. Military and veterans who have proper identification will get reduced prices on tickets.
For more information about volunteering e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.