Bridgeport/Pickel Meadows, California – Established just after the Korean War, the United States Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center has been specializing in mountain movement and operations training of U.S. Armed Forces Members for nearly 65 years. But unlike most Department of Defense military installations, the vast majority of the training areas used by the USMC MWTC are on open public land.
Three years ago, American300 started bringing unique subject matter experts to the base to interact with instructors and students. In that time the training center also brought on line the expansion of their animal packing program to now include the DoD’s only special operations horsemanship program.
“We’d been using champion cowboys and cowgirls in our resiliency programming around the world for years,” says Robi Powers, founder of American300 adding, ” so it was a natural to start bringing world class cowboys and cowgirls onto the base to assist with subject matter expert exchanges with the Animal Packing and SOF Horsemenship instructors and students.”
Beyond the obvious benefits of instructors being able to pick the brains of professional horsemen, American300 also saw an opportunity to assist the base with it’s community outreach. Three years ago the Marines had American300 guests join in the annual July 4th parade in downtown Bridgeport.
When the community found out they had Hall of Fame World Champion Cowboys coming to town with the Marines, lightbulbs started going off for Marcus Bunn, manager of Centennial Livestock Company and director of the Bridgeport Ranch Rodeo Series with his wife Kim.
The Bunn’s reached out to Powers and together, working with Tony Parkhurst, the manager of the Marines Animal Programming cooked up a ‘Dream Team’ entry into the annual Bridgeport Ranch Rodeo, considered by the western industry to be one of the best ranch rodeos in the country. “We have our celebrity cowboys and cowgirls pair up with Marines for a no rules no holds barred approach to the various events,” says Powers, adding “While our scores don’t count, the reception by the true competitors is nothing but welcoming and over the years some great friendships have been formed.”
Three years later the annual gathering of cowboys, Marines and community has taken root. On July 4th each year, rodeo staff and ‘Dream Team’ contestants can be seen wearing shirts with American300, Wrangler, Centennial Live Stock Company Ranch Rodeo Series and Marines stitched onto Wrangler George Straight freshly starched white signature shirts. The community of Bridgeport has also come to see the special guests and their Marine hosts as a stronger part of the overall community fabric.
What stared out with World Champion Hall of Fame Cowboys: John Jones Jr. and Lewis Feild, has expanded to include, Super Bowl Champion Bear Pascoe and Miss Rodeo Florida, Jenna Smeenk, who is a Staff Sergeant in the USAF. New this year, Marine Corps Veteran turned Hollywood actor Wilford Brimley will be joining the American300 team.
With a ranching season cut short due to long winters and our Marines focused on training units preparing to deploy constantly, being able to bring the two groups together annually during our nation’s birthday has proven to be key in strengthen the overall relationship between the base and township… and who cares if the World Champions and Marines tweak the rules a little during the rodeo… their being involved is mission accomplishment all by itself.
American300 is an all volunteer 501c3 Nonprofit with a mission of supporting the Department of Defense. No federal endorsement is implied or intended – American300.org
The nonprofit conducts resiliency tours worldwide on a monthly basis, focused on making our service members, their families and the communities in which they live and operate in as collectively positive as possible.