HERMISTON - In a new approach to reaching potential recruits, the Army is sponsoring a professional bull riding team in the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association.

The team will compete in the Farm-City Pro Rodeo through Saturday.

The team is composed of seven cowboys and a cowgirl. The only rider from the northwest is Zach Oakes, from Tonasket, Wash.

The riders are all professionals, most with years of experience. None are known to have served in the Army, according to Capt. Rob Patton, an area Army recruiter.

Patton explained the new rodeo teams came about because the Army's new chief of staff hails from Wyoming and is a big rodeo fan. The rodeo also fits the Army's strategy to reach more potential recruits in rural areas.

"The country folks are really the most patriotic around," Patton said.

Patton said he and other recruiters will be at the Farm-City Pro Rodeo to answer questions.

Patton plans to display at the fair a NASCAR show car, which the Army also sponsors, as well as a mechanical calf.

The calf will enable the rodeo team to demonstrate their skills to fairgoers, and will also give rodeo fans a chance to try their hand at calf roping.

Patton said the rodeo team will sign autographs at 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Army booth.

A full-sized parachute will also be available for those interested in trying one on.

Patton added he hopes to do something Saturday night to show appreciation for veterans.

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