Defender Challenge returns

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Whitney Laine
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
The automatic email notification ping broke the early morning silence. Without advanced warning of the email’s importance, it was presumed to be unurgent. The security forces airman’s inbox sat unread, to be checked after his daily duties were completed.

Unpredicted, this email would later open the door to an opportunity for Senior Airman Joseph Pace, 92nd Security Forces Squadron installation patrolman, to represent Air Mobility Command as a participant in the 2018 Defender Challenge, Sept. 10-13, at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.

After a 14-year hiatus, the 2018 Defender Challenge hosted 14 Security Forces teams from Great Britain, Germany and U.S. Air Force major commands. Each group competed over a three-day span in combat weapons, dismounted operations and combat endurance.

“The Defender Challenge is a security forces tradition held in times of peace to challenge the experts in each major command and ensure we are upholding the standards as lethal and capable defenders,” Pace said. “Each small team is chosen to represent their major command’s tactics, shooting skills and operability as a unit.”

Each major command evaluated applicants’ ability, drive and endurance to ensure each command was represented by their top performers.

Applicants were required to submit a package including previous experience, deployments, knowledge and skills to contribute to their respective major command team upon selection, Pace said.

After being selected by each base’s leadership, the 12 Air Mobility Command nominees were sent to train in New Jersey for almost three weeks.

“The most taxing and challenging drill was the feat of stress firing: the testing of shooting accuracy after completing a series of laps, sprints and burpees, all performed in full uniform,” Pace said.

After this training, eight of the 12 nominees were selected to represent Air Mobility Command at the challenge.

“With the hard work and effort of our coaches, we became a, cohesive team of six primary members and two alternates to be sent to Camp Bullis,” said Pace.

Upon arrival to Camp Bullis, the selectees received instruction, unclear from years of dormancy, to begin and complete the vigorous obstacle course.

“As a 2018 Defender Challenge evaluator, I knew the specific requirements and penalties listed on the score sheets,” said Tech. Sgt. Bryant Guillermo, 92nd SFS Operations Support NCO in-charge. “In contrast, the teams only saw the rule books, allowing them to know an outline, but not the full picture.”

Teams were tasked to navigate the difficult course through the thick brush while completing sporadic skills assessments critical to their daily duties.

“Having an outside perspective allowed me to see the individuals excel in their strengths and form a powerful machine to complete each task with every advancement through the course,” Guillermo said. “The friendly competition from the beginning built Airmen’s esprit de corps to overcome their discomfort in pursuit of their team and major command’s victory.”

Upon completion, the AMC Defender Challenge team claimed 1st place in the dismounted operations challenge, earning the Sadler Cup, and achieved 3rd place in combat endurance.

“Having the opportunity to represent Fairchild at the 2018 Defender Challenge allowed me to gain knowledge and experience to share within my unit,” Pace said. “Being able to bring back the trophy has allowed us to share the victory and motivation to continue to uphold and improve our standard of excellence.”