FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. --
U.S. Army Ranger School is one of the most rigorous 62 days of military training across the Department of Defense, and is responsible for producing elite soldiers to the Army’s fighting force. Those who survive the strenuous tests, physical challenges and prove to be true leaders, are awarded the right to wear the highly sought after Ranger tab, solidifying their place in a prestigious club as one of the military’s best.
Joining that club is one of Fairchild’s own, Staff Sgt. Joseph Pace, 92nd Security Forces Squadron installation patrolman, completed the grueling 62 day course in April after starting in November 2019. This combat leadership course is divided into three phases that focus on small-unit tactics, realistic fieldwork and sound leadership under stressful conditions, such as fatigue and hunger. Only about 300 Airmen have completed the course.
“Living out in field conditions during Ranger school, you have some terrible times,” Pace said. “You’re tired and hungry to the point of hallucinating and you're freezing, but eventually, you become accustomed to the worst and mold into a decisive leader for strenuous situations.”
Pace joined the Air Force in 2014, where he began his career as a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialist candidate but he unfortunately fell short of the standards. Instead of quitting, Pace pressed on, guiding him to the security forces career path. The diverse opportunities security forces provides, such as military working dogs, combat arms, investigations, RAVEN and police officer, excited Pace when offered a spot upon reclassification.
“I was then given the opportunity to become a security forces member, and my first thought was, ‘I can have a job that works and trains with weapons? - YES!’ and I immediately took it,” Pace said.
Security Forces Airmen are the Air Force's first line of defense and it is their job to maintain the rule of law on all Air Force bases and installations while ensuring the safety of all base weapons, property and personnel from hostile forces.
“You have to have a calm approach when working in this career field, especially in high stress environments,” Pace said. “You learn to keep your cool through repetition, being knowledgeable, and for me, the ability to remain calm and cool in those environments was one of the gains from Ranger school.”
Prior to Ranger school, Pace also participated in the highly competitive 2018 Defender Challenge where he represented Fairchild as a member of the Air Mobility Command defender team. The Defender Challenge is a three day competition, comprised of different events testing basic military skills, land navigation, weapons firing, simulated combat, first aid and more.
“The competition was fun and showcased our skills as to how we operate as a team,” Pace said. “I cherished the training before the competition with my team the most. It presented the biggest challenge in having to prove your worth to your peers and cadre.”
Pace helped push the team to claim first place in the dismounted operations challenge, third place in combat endurance and earning the Sadler Cup, a trophy presented only to the teams who placed first in an event.
“He never shies away from a challenge,” said Master Sgt. Brandon Geeslin, 92nd SFS operations superintendent and Pace’s flight chief. “He attacks problems head on and carries that outside of work as well by helping his fellow Airmen with physical training or leading flight events for morale.”
Pace also competed to earn a German Armed Forces Proficiency badge in 2018, where he earned the highest achievement possible with a gold badge. The GAFPB is a decoration of the Bundeswehr, the unified armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany, and is one of the few approved foreign awards authorized to be worn on uniforms, making it a very sought after achievement. Participants must complete a variety of events covering both basic fitness and military training in order to earn the badge including a sprint test, chin-up test, 1,000-meter run, 100-meter swim in uniform, removing a uniform in water, pistol qualification and a ruck march.
“I have always enjoyed things that have tested my limits,” Pace said. “I completed my first Tough Mudder in Düsseldorf, Germany, in 2015, and have also competed in ruck marches all throughout the military. In doing so, I have found that you need discipline to train and exceed the standards, not just meet them.”
The idea and value of ‘never quitting’ is something Pace embraces passionately and uses to uphold himself to standards and to exceed them exponentially, Geeslin said. His success in Ranger school brings additional capabilities to the unit and has helped Pace become a better leader.
“The reason I continue to put myself in the ringer is not only to push my limits and see what grit I have, but so that I can show others what they are capable of,” Pace said. “I want everyone to know that it doesn't take something special to accomplish anything you want -- it just takes commitment.”