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U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFFC)

VFA-37 ‘Ragin’ Bulls’ Host Professional Bull Riders, Recognized with Sport’s ‘Be Cowboy’ Award

by Information Systems Technician Second Class Megan Roberts
27 February 2024
VFA-37 ‘Ragin’ Bulls’ Host Professional Bull Riders, Recognized with Sport’s ‘Be Cowboy’ Award
SLIDESHOW | 6 images | VFA-37 ‘Ragin’ Bulls’ Host Professional Bull Riders, Recognized with Sport’s ‘Be Cowboy’ Award VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (FEB. 23, 2024) - Professional Bull Riders (PBR) Andrew Alvidrez (left) and Brandon Chambers (right) are presented with command challenge coins by Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 37 “Ragin’ Bulls” Commanding Officer Michael Tremel during their visit to the squadron’s facilities onboard Naval Air Station Oceana. The Ragin’ Bulls returned Jan. 16 from an eight-month deployment supporting partners and allies in the U.S. Navy 6th Fleet area of operations aboard USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Julianna J. Lynch)
As the “Ragin’ Bulls” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 37 still settle in after their nearly nine-month deployment aboard USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), they got the special opportunity to share what kept them motivated during their time at sea with some special guests. 

Professional bull riders Andrew Alvidrez and Brandon Chambers, who competed in the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) Velocity Tour events on Feb. 23-24 at Hampton Coliseum, visited the squadron’s hangar located on Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana in Virginia Beach to meet the pilots and crew who make PBR bulls fly. Those flying bulls are, in fact, the F/A-18E Super Hornets of VFA-37, which were named after eight bulls that compete in PBR. 
 

Many Sailors believe their loved ones are their biggest motivators during deployment, especially the memories they share together.

Lt. Cmdr. Sam Dulaney, a Ragin’ Bulls pilot, recalls a beloved memory of his three-year old son, Charlie, who spurred the naming of the squadron’s planes.  

“We were at home just flipping through the channels, and we saw some bull riders and Charlie just got hooked. He’ll say ‘I'm Dolton Kasel riding Cool Whip’ or whoever and I'll have to count him in and he’ll fake ride the bull. It's cute, and it's our thing now,” Dulaney said.

This memory was the answer to VFA-37 Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Mike Tremel’s long-standing desire.

“We wanted to make the jets our own, boost morale, and add that personal touch of pride,” Tremel said. “We wanted to make the aircraft more than just a number.”

The Ragin’ Bulls pilots knew the names they gave their jets needed to represent the strength of both their aircraft and their crew, and, thanks to Charlie, the PBR bulls would do just that. They gathered some of the toughest-sounding bull names, including Bodacious, Cool Whip, Flap Jack, Smokestack, Ridin’ Solo, Flyin’ Wired, Panhandle Slim, Legend, Smackdown, Prime Time, and Moonlight Party, and sent it out to the squadron to vote on their favorites. 

Tremel and VFA-37’s Command Master Chief Jeremy Mitchell also aimed to get the entire squadron involved in voting for the names.

“It's not just the pilots’ jets. We come in and they let us borrow their jets.  We show up, put it in the air, and that's the extent of our interaction with the aircraft. They're the reason we're able to do our job. There’s 15 pilots and over 200 Sailors, it's really a team effort to be able to accomplish the mission,” Tremel said.

After spending some time with the pilots and crew of VFA-37 on their Feb. 22 visit to the squadron located on NAS Oceana, Alvidrez and Chambers shared a similar sentiment and drew parallels between their support system and that of the jets.

“From the moment you’ve parked the plane to takeoff, there’s a whole crew that does it,” Chambers said. “It’s just like bull riding. It’s not just us riding, there’s whole arena crew … it takes a whole village.”
The professional cowboys got to explore the flight line, tour the hangar, see an F/A-18E Super Hornet up close, and don flight gear. In addition, they got the rare experience of flying F/A-18E Super Hornets in the Navy’s simulators, where many pilots go to train and gain proficiency behind the joystick.

On Feb. 23, it was PBR’s turn, as they invited the entire squadron to the bull riding event at Hampton Coliseum. Sailors got to see how Alvidrez, Chambers, and other riders perform their skills.

Prior to the night’s events, PBR’s CEO Sean Gleason awarded the “Ragin’ Bulls” PBR’s “Be Cowboy” Award.

“I’ve been doing this for 24 years, and I’ve gotta tell you this is the coolest thing that has happened to PBR,” Gleason said to the crowd at Hampton Coliseum expressing his pride to interact with an incredible squadron of heroes. “We can’t thank you enough.”

The “Be Cowboy” Award recognizes toughness, courage, and patriotism, which are the core values of both professional cowboys and Sailors alike. In addition to the award, the squadron was awarded two commemorative PBR belt buckles, which will be proudly displayed at VFA-37’s hangar.

“The crew did their best work in some of the toughest situation,” Tremel said. “It's nice to be able to reward that with moments like this.”
 
 
 
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