"For the love of rodeo and country," is the motto of the Professional Armed Forces Rodeo Association.
Maj. Paul Brittain, a Colorado Army National Guard Soldier and rodeo cowboy in the PAFRA, embodies those values.
He competes as both a header and heeler in team roping, an also in tie-down calf roping.
As a Soldier, Brittain is a traditional Army National Guardsman assigned to U.S. Northern Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo. In his position as a Current Operations officer, he collects, verifies and assesses information related to National Guard activities and operations in response to homeland crises and planned exercises.
Recently Brittain competed in PAFRA World Championships held in Midland, Texas Nov. 24, 2012. Going into the championships he was tied for the lead in heading and heeling and third in tie-down roping.
Being successful in several events made him a threat for the All-Around title, which is awarded to the rodeo competitor with the most combined points in multiple events.
"I felt I had a good chance of winning the world title in any of the three events," said Brittain. "Unfortunately, it was a rather humbling world finals for me. Competition was tough and I just couldn’t find my rhythm in the team roping."
Brittain finished the 2012 PAFRA season as the runner up in the all-around, 4th in the world in tie-down roping, 5th in heading and 4th in heeling.
"Team roping is the most unique event in rodeo," said Brittain. "There are five different variables on any given run: You have two ropers, two horses and a steer running out of the chutes at the same time; you have five different thought processes happening at the same time; and you're all trying to get on the same page. Processing all that and putting down a smooth run -- you can’t help but feel a sense of pride and accomplishment."
Although Brittain didn't perform as well as he hoped, his performance did help his roping partner, Air Force Lt. Col. Val Baker, win the PAFRA 2012 Women’s All-Around World Title.
“We rope both ways with each other (in the team-roping), meaning I head, he heels, then he heads and I heel,” said Baker. “Team roping is a team-dependant event -- unlike the other events I do such as breakaway and tie-down, where it's just me and my horse.”
Not only is Baker a world-champion cowgirl, she's also the PAFRA's vice president. The PAFRA has grown into the premier global military rodeo association that caters to the military cowboy and cowgirl. Members foster a global community for rodeo participants who share a connection to the U.S. military, she said.
The PAFRA currently has eight circuits in the U.S. and Europe.
Brittain is the Rocky Mountain circuit director, which covers Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.
In addition to his 20 years of rodeo experience, Brittain has 14 years of commissioned military service, which includes a 2005 deployment to Iraq as part of 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment. He was assigned to a Military Transition Team who provided training to an Iraqi army battalion.
When not competing in rodeo or fulfilling his military obligation, Brittain is the head cowboy at the Bar T Ranch in Burlington, Colo.
“My main responsibility is the health and welfare of the cow herd and the horses,” said Brittain. “We still use horses for all the cow work. On horses, we move the herd from pasture to pasture. Sick calves are roped and doctored using horses.
"We will work calves all day and then for fun we go to the roping pen and rope 'til we can’t see. I'd like to put lights on the arena, but I also want my wife to stick around,” he said with a grin.
Rodeo is a sport that grew out of the skills and tasks performed by cowboys as they work livestock. For many, rodeo is more than a sport. It's a way of life.
"Rodeo is an outdoor sport my entire family enjoys," said Brittain. We spend a ton of time outside and have developed a healthy lifestyle as a result."
Through his experiences working on the ranch and in the rodeo arena, Brittain has learned valuable lessons that he carries over into his military service.
“Everyone makes mistakes -- misses a calf, knocks over a barrel or gets bucks off a bull,” he said. “Rodeo has helped me learn how to deal with adversity, errors, and challenges, and to translate that skill to real life and effectively minimize mistakes or bad decisions -- as well as competently recover from setbacks.”
Maj. Brittain will be competing again in the PAFRA in 2013, his goal is to bring home the All-Around World Championship.