Curtis Imming heads for Omar Benally—both U.S. Marine Veterans—at the Warriors and Rodeo Navajo Nation Team Roping Clinic in 2022. | TRJ File Photo/Jamie Arviso
Post 9/11, Curtis Imming knew he needed to serve and, since then, he’s been committed to bettering his communities, whether through roping or his career in federal law enforcement. No matter the challenge, he’s succeeded, but now, he’s finally making a home with his family.
When Curtis Imming joined the Marines after 9/11, he knew he was going to war—it’s why he joined—but he didn’t realize how the war would impact the “normal process” of joining, and how valuable that process could have been.
“The beginning of 2003, Afghanistan is already going on and Iraq kicks off,” Imming, 41, explained. “I get assigned to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines. They’re already gone. They’re already in Iraq, and I’m in Infantry School.”
Usually, most new Marines finish their school and join their units in-country and then deploy together. In Imming’s case, he was sent overseas to join up with a unit that had been eating dirt for a while.
“They were pushing from the border of Kuwait all the way up to Baghdad and, then, they retrograded back down to Southern Iraq before I made it there,” Imming offered. “The challenge was showing up to a unit where all these guys have already been through combat. Some of them had been stop-lossed, and so, you’re the new guy that ‘missed the war’ in their eyes. Nobody knew how long it was going to go.”
It was a tough transition for a 20-year-old Private First Class from Phoenix, but Imming dug in for two tours and then trained and tested into a new battalion.
“I did my third tour with the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion,” he said. “But I just felt like there was more I could do at home.”
Imming got out in 2007 and went to school for federal law enforcement and was awarded his degree in 2010. He was living in Tucson at the time and working for a defense contractor when he met his now wife, Ashley, in 2012. Imming grew up with siblings who rodeoed, and he’d ridden some bulls in high school (though baseball was his primary focus), but Ashley, a barrel racer, played a big part in Imming’s transition to roping.
Imming and Ashley moved as Imming’s career—he works in violent crime: “anything from bank robberies to gangs and drugs”—dictated, first to the El Paso region for six years and then to Gallup, New Mexico. It was during his time there that he discovered Warriors and Rodeo.
“There’s gotta be something out there that promotes veterans in rodeo,” Imming said of what he was looking for. “It was like, ‘This fits me. This is who I am now.’”
Then, when Imming attended Charly Crawford’s American Military Celebration in 2021, the wheels really started turning. There, fellow WAR member Omar Benally pitched the idea of a roping clinic to World Champion Header Erich Rogers for the military veterans of the Navajo Nation, just down the road from Gallup.
In 2022, Imming and Benally hosted a very successful, first-ever Warriors and Rodeo Navajo Nation Roping Clinic, which featured instruction from and time to rope with Rogers, Derrick Begay and Aaron Tsinigine. Though Benally put together a second annual clinic this year, Imming missed it by mere weeks, due to what he hopes will be a lasting move.
“Gallup is a hardship for my job,” the father of two explained. “I volunteered to go there for three years. Then, you get to go wherever you want. We picked here, and we don’t plan on moving.”
“Here” is a touch north of Fort Worth, where Imming’s work is based, and within striking distance of Decatur, where Imming was hoping to enter up in a few events over Memorial Day Weekend at the Danny Dietz Memorial Classic, if a sick kiddo and family commitments allowed.
The move, of course, took priority for a few months, but Imming did get to a roping Rogers put on in Round Rock, Arizona, in October, and he’s working on getting his second-string mount, Spider, up to par with his main mount, Damon, a big, blue roan looker.
Between his roping and rodeo networks, as well as the veteran groups like Warriors And Rodeo, Charly Crawford’s American Military Celebration and, now, a roping team supported by another non-profit, Recon & Sniper Foundation, Imming is flush with resources on the days he can priotize swinging a rope.
“It’s just another group that I can associate with on both the military and rodeo side of things,” he said. “I’ve met great people throughout: Eric, Derrick, Aaron. And I’ve met good people here already. Everybody’s super helpful and that’s what I like about this side of things. With roping, I have met a lot of good people, and I enjoy it.” TRJ