By Scott Prater
After a nine-month delay, the 4th Space Operations Squadron was finally able to throw down its big challenge Friday.
The squadron best known for flying Advanced Extremely High Frequency and Milstar satellites, invited its fellow 50th Space Wing squadrons to a little friendly athletic competition.
“This event helps members from all of the different squadrons get to know each other in a different form than the workplace, where they otherwise would not interact,” said Lt. Col. Monte Munoz, 4 SOPS commander. “They can come out here, have a couple laughs and get some healthy competition in. Overall, it’s just an enormous camaraderie and morale booster.”
Originally slated for October 2013, the competition was cancelled due to the government financial crises, according to Munoz. Once squadron leaders determined the small budget was obtainable again, finding a date proved to be cumbersome.
About a month ago, event organizer Alison Wang found a date that worked for everyone and circled July 11 on the calendar.
The delay failed to hurt the hosts, however. Accustomed to dominating the 4-Fit Challenge, 4 SOPS coasted to its eighth consecutive overall victory, earning first place in five of the nine events.
By virtue of its victory against the combination 50th Operations Support Squadron/50th Operations Group Standardization and Evaluation flight team in the flag football championship game, the 2nd Space Operations Squadron claimed second place while 50 OSS/OGV took third.
Beginning in 2006, the 4-Fit Challenge was initiated by former 4 SOPS Commander Col. John Shaw, now 21st Space Wing commander, to promote fitness in a team construct. Shaw’s successor at both 4 SOPS and later as 50 OG Commander, Col. Tommy Roberts, continued the event… and a tradition was born.
Competitors couldn’t have asked for nicer weather Friday. Sunny skies and warm temperatures combined with a steady breeze as 4 SOPS’s Jessica Dudney stood ready to take the baton in the anchor leg of the women’s 4X100 meter relay.
With baton in hand, Dudney started the final stretch of the race with a 2-meter lead ahead of 50 OSS’s Megan Jackson.
“It seemed like with every step I could feel her gaining on me,” Dudney said. “I just tried to give everything I had and, ultimately, it worked out for us.”
With Jackson bearing down in the last few steps, Dudney stretched across the finish line to win by a nose — .04 seconds, to be exact.
“I usually run longer distances,” she said. “But, that’s one of the great things about this competition — we could sign up for any event we wanted. It was fun racing someone; you can’t replicate that when you’re training alone.”
Just as the women were finishing up the relay, more than eight competitors duked it out on the pull up bar north of the track.
Colin Merrin, 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron, was one of the last competitors to jump up to the bar.
“There were a lot of strong guys here,” he said. “Quite a few managed to do more than 20, so I knew I needed a strong performance to finish among the top competitors. The atmosphere was real conducive to performance, though, with everyone around cheering and supporting.”
Ultimately, Merrin logged 32 pull ups, only three off his personal-best total, to claim victory.
“I was satisfied,” he said. “I wanted to do well because I rock-climb for a hobby. There aren’t too many competitions that involve pull ups, so this was a rare opportunity to show a specific type of strength and endurance.”
Like his predecessors, Munoz participated in many of the events, including flag football and the pull up competition.
“We’re carrying on a tradition, yes, but I think it’s important to recognize how excited everyone was at this event,” Munoz said. “I’ve heard from several officers and enlisted members that we need to do this type of event quarterly. The point is, we’re bringing the squadrons together in one place and elevating the sense of camaraderie across the base.”