Pickel Meadows, California - While the roar of rodeo fans will be heard across the country on this fourth of July, two Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association Hall of Fame Cowboys will be spending the day with Marines this year. Instead of tightening their belts and pressing down on their cattlemen creased cowboy hats in anticipation of tearing out of a timed event shoot, they’ll be sharing over seventy-five years worth of combined equestrian knowledge with our only active duty military mountain horse instructors.
Since 1951, the United States Marine Corps has conducted specialized training on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada’s, just outside of Bridgeport, California. The USMC Base serves as a joint service mountain warfare training center, preparing our Marines and other service branches to operate in the most rugged and extreme environs.
Terrain like Afghanistan
Terrain that many times requires the use of horse and mule to move operational equipment to forward deployed locations. “There are a lot of places we could never get a vehicle. Whether the roads are washed out, too steep, or not there at all, we can rely on animals to help us, “ said Sergeant Earl R. Roberts, a staff non-commissioned officer with the Marine Animal Packers Course, in 2003, “Anywhere people can walk, it’s a sure bet a horse or mule can get there too.”
Getting there is something that the Wrangler Corporation and American300 have been doing for five years now. From sending Wrangler rodeo icons to Iraq and Afghanistan to the Pacific Command on Memorial Day to rounding up these Hall of Fame Cowboys to spend time with like minded Marine Cadre. “Our mission is to connect amazing Americans with our troops, making for one on one discussions that lead to better understanding,” says Rob Powers who along with fellow Army Veteran Jesse Stewart created the nonprofit American300 as a resiliency tool for the Department of Defense, “Being able to connect world class Cowboys who have spent their entire lives on the backs of horses is going to open doors to professional and personal development.”
For world champions Lewis Feild and John W. Jones Jr., the upcoming visit to the Marine equestrian trainers and students was something they both jumped at. “I had no idea we even had a mountain horse packing and riding program still active in the military,” said Feild, who along with Jones traveled to Kyrgyzstan last spring with American300 on a Department of State mission, “John and I can’t wait to see how they teach our military to work with large animals, there’s no doubt that we’ll have a great time sharing with these men and women in uniform.”
Sharing life stories and experience is the backbone of American300 Tours, the organization works with volunteers to create these two-way mentoring exchanges roughly twice a month. “We’re honored to be partnered with American300 and to have so many Wrangler Cowboys and Cowgirls willing to offer up their time and energy to support our military,” says Jeff Chadwick, director of western events and endorsees for the Wrangler Corporation “Lew and John are both going to be in a unique position to share with the entire western industry exactly what these amazing Marines are teaching, we can’t wait to hear their stories once it’s over.”
Sharing stories... something that Cowboys have done around campfires in America for as long as fireworks have lit up our night skies on the fourth of July.
For more information on American300 visit: www.American300.org