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Air Force launches new BBQ competition

Feb. 23, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Tech. Sgt. Sheldon Mason of the 341st Maintenance Operations Squadron at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., pours barbecue sauce on ribs during an office lunch.
Tech. Sgt. Sheldon Mason of the 341st Maintenance Operations Squadron at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., pours barbecue sauce on ribs during an office lunch. (Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen / Air Force)
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The Air Force's first-ever 'High Flyin' BBQ Challenge' is underway, with competitors' entry essays or videos due April 25. (Staff Sgt. Kent Kagarise / Air Force)

WHAT YOU COULD WIN*

For all members who submit an essay package:


Commemorative oven mitt and apron


Six regional contenders:


$200 Army and Air Force Exchange Service gift card


First-place finalist:


Horizon backyard smoker


Bass Pro electric meat grinder


Two Bass Pro reclining fold-up chairs


Flavored briquettes


Champion trophy


Second-place finalist:


Teton four-burner gas grill


9-by-6-foot hammock


Two Bass Pro reclining fold-up chairs


Miscellaneous BBQ accessories


2nd-place trophy


Third-place finalist:


18.5-inch charcoal smoker


9-by-6-foot hammock


Two Bass Pro reclining fold-up chairs


Miscellaneous BBQ accessories


3rd-place trophy


*Substitutions possible based on availability of products.

If you’re a grill master, this competition may just be your mecca.

The Air Force has launched its first-ever “High Flyin’ BBQ Challenge,” aimed at involving airmen in barbecue competitions in their communities and showcasing their barbecue skills.

Active-duty, Guard and Reserve airmen across the contiguous U.S. can compete for prizes and top honors. So can sister service members at Air Force-led joint bases: Joint Base Andrews, Md.; Joint Base Charleston, S.C.; Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va.; Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.; and Joint Base San Antonio.

“We constantly seek opportunities to provide new and innovative programming for [airmen and families],” said Col. Marc Piccolo, spokesman for the Air Force Personnel Center. “Given the popularity of barbecue in the U.S., and the popularity of reality shows like TLC’s ‘BBQ PitMasters,’ we decided to field a barbecue-based program this year.”

But before you marinate, the first step is to tell the Air Force about your barbecue skills.

By April 18, entrants must submit a 500-word-maximum essay with a photo of their barbecue only and a description of why they believe their barbecue techniques are the best.

Essays will be graded on clarity, creativity and the entrant’s knowledge of barbecue.

“We’re mainly interested in people who are passionate about their barbecue,” Piccolo said. “Winning essays will clearly convey their excitement and passion for this pastime.”

But if writing isn’t your forte, a video essay would work, too. “Contestants can now submit a link to a short video as an alternative to the essay,” Piccolo said. “We realize some people would rather tell their story on video than take pen to paper.”

AFPC judges will pick the top two essay writers from each of three U.S. regions — west, central and east — to be announced April 25. Those six will then compete in a regional community competition sometime between May 23 and Aug. 23.

“We’ll work with national and regional barbecue associations to line up selected participants with a sanctioned competition within driving distance,” Piccolo said.

Local competition events do not necessarily need to be physically located within the region an airman represents — some events could be up to 200 miles away from an airman’s base.

All competitors will provide their own transportation, equipment and supplies, including meats and other food products, for their local qualifying competition. Competition sanctioning bodies will provide rules and instructions for their event; airmen will have a minimum of one month to prepare. By Aug. 27, the sanctioning bodies will provide the Air Force with the results using their rules and scoring system.

Three finalists from the regional community competitions will travel to San Antonio in September, exact date to be determined, to compete in the Air Force ­Finals, slated to be held simultaneously with the San Antonio Stock & Rodeo Show’s Fall ­Festival.

For more information on the contest rules, and to find out where the officially sanctioned barbecue events are across the U.S., visit http://www.myairforcelifecom/BBQ.

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