By Staff Sgt. Robert Cloys
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
The 11th Space Warning Squadron participated in Panther Challenge during the month of October, an inaugural event testing both operational performance and crew knowledge in a competitive atmosphere.
The squadron, located at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo. is a geographically-separated unit of the 460th Space Wing at Buckley AFB, Colo.. Its mission is to deploy the next generation of missile warning, battle-space awareness, technical intelligence and missile defense data through taskable, space-based infrared, highly elliptical operations.
Panther Challenge was held in the spirit of Guardian Challenge, a historical biannual, two-week Air Force Space Command competition amongst its wings testing the different mission areas of the command.
“The 460th Operations Group team recognized the importance of Guardian Challenge from our past as a way to hone our warfighting skills,” said Col. DeAnna Burt, 460 OG commander. “Nothing gets people motivated like a good old fashioned competition.”
In light of budget constraints, the 460th Space Wing was able to find a way to hone the essence of Guardian Challenge, but execute it on a group scale.
Burt explained that in order to keep costs to a minimum, the competition was run internally by support personnel and awards are being announced separately at each location.
The 11 SWS competed with 2 SWS, 460 OG Detachment 1, 460 Space Communications Squadron and intelligence specialists as part of the annual training event held in October.
“We performed a 100-question, closed-book test and a grueling hands-on scenario for our crews and teams from the three ops units,” said Burt. “Feedback from the participants has been very positive and we have seen a marked increase in job knowledge and crew and team proficiency as a result.”
Challenges in space differ greatly from many other Air Force career fields and require a unique training approach.
“We can’t physically touch or fix the satellite like a maintainer could fix a jet,” said Tech. Sgt. Matthew Henkel, 11 SWS NCO in charge of Standardization and Evaluation. “Everything is done from a distance. Crews train for months to deal with difficult scenarios. We test to see how the crew can perform under pressure with multiple, seemingly impossible, tasks at once.”
Col. Daniel Wright, 460th Space Wing commander, announced winners of individual and team awards by during an awards ceremony here Oct. 22.
“Panther Challenge is an opportunity for the crews to focus and hone their skill set as operators,” said Wright. “The focus is crew force readiness, excellence in the performance of our duties, as well as building of teams and camaraderie as they face very difficult scenarios.”