JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-CAMP BULLIS, Texas --
Air Mobility Command’s team earned first place for dismounted operations at the 2018 Defender Challenge, which commenced Sept. 11 with a ceremony to remember Sept. 11, 2001 here.
For the first time since 2004, 14 Security Forces teams from each Air Force major commands, Air National Guard, Air Force District of Washington, and nations Great Britain and Germany, competed against each other in a test of their skills through weapons scenarios, dismounted operations and combat endurance.
“The competition will test the very same skills defenders may need on any day at any air base in any area of responsibility,” said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Andrea Tullos, Air Force director of security forces as she opened the competition. “They will be placed under stress and will need to shoot, move and communicate with their fire team.”
This competition was on a 14-year hiatus due to mission requirements in the wake of 9/11 attacks, and an increase in deployments.
The long gap left most security forces members unknown to the world-wide competition, compelling coaches like Carpino from the Air Mobility Command team to allot for long training preparations. The AMC team trained for three weeks prior to the competition on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.
As the teams prepared for the competition, Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Carpino, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida 6th Security Forces Squadron NCO in charge and AMC team coach, said the exact list of what the teams would be tested on were not given out right away so there was no itinerary of skills for which to train.
“We can prepare the best we can across the span of security forces skill sets in training and tactics, but we don't exactly know what they are going to encounter,” said Carpino. “I think we have simulated as much as possible with weather conditions and physical endurance they may experience [in San Antonio], but as far as the actual challenge, we don’t know exactly what the competition will consist of.”
To qualify for the competition, security forces members tried out by completing a 6-mile run carrying 25-35 pounds in under two hours, a shooting stress fire with an M4 carbine and M9 pistol, a CrossFit Hero workout, react to close and far ambushes, an obstacle course and field operations fire team movements. Each team was comprised of four main competitors and two alternatives and selected based on their performance and progression when the teams first began training.
The Pacific Air Forces won the Defender Challenge championship trophy, with the highest accumulated points. Going into the competition, Great Britain had been the standing champion since they won the last competition in 2004.
Communication was an important contributing factor for success when training as a team.
Members of each team came from different bases around the command with different styles of learning and performing. The AMC team, though, had found their flow said the team lead leading up to the first competition event.
“I like my team and how well we mesh together,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Zachary Everett, Dover AFB, Delaware 436th SFS response force leader and AMC team lead. “I’m excited to compete against everybody else, especially against the international forces. It will be interesting to see the strategic performances from the other teams and if they communicate as well as my team.”