By Meaghan Dorroh
Air Force Space Command Public Affairs, Air Force Space Command
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — The Air Force Space Command Defender Challenge team placed No. 3 in the Weapons Challenge and No. 5 overall in the 2018 Defender Challenge competition hosted at Joint Base San Antonio – Camp Bullis, Texas, Sept. 10-13.
The Defender Challenge, which returned after a 14-year hiatus, is a competition amongst 14 Security Forces teams from Air Force major commands, Great Britain and Germany. The contest aimed to develop more lethal and capable security forces Airmen, as well as provide familiarization with U.S. coalition partner operations by testing Defenders in combat weapons, dismounted operations and combat endurance.
The AFSPC team was made up of Airmen from each of the command’s wings – representing Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., 21st Security Forces Squadron, Team Captain Tech. Sgt. Sinjen Halsey and Senior Airman James Strohmeier; representing Schriever AFB, Colo., 50th SFS, Tech. Sgt. Spencer Wallace; representing Vandenberg AFB, Calif., 30th SFS Senior Airman Leopoldo Ruiz and Airmen 1st Class Eric Knierim; representing Buckley AFB, Colo., 460th SFS, Senior Airman Nicholas Rauch; and representing Patrick AFB, Fla., 45th SFS, Airman 1st Class Oscar Delgado, Jr.
“Through the two weeks we were together, I watched strangers become one, cohesive team; and not just that, but a competitive team,” said Wallace. “Everyone brought something to the table that made us well rounded squad. The energy, motivation and discipline my teammates and coaches constantly displayed motivated me to push myself.”
The competition provided a unique comradery and training opportunity the Airmen were able to learn from, and will take back to their wings.
“My favorite experience was being able to bond with my teammates,” said Knierim. Learning from one another, fixing mistakes, and strengthening our weaknesses only made our team better. In turn, it makes our Air Force better. The values and skills we obtained from this challenge are something that I and my teammates will carry with us throughout our careers and everyday life.”
The third place Weapons Challenge trophy will be presented to AFSPC Commander Gen. Jay Raymond, and the Defender Challenge team members will be recognized with Air Force Achievement Medals for their participation in the 2018 Defender Challenge competition.
“My Defender Challenge experience was ultimately the highlight of my life. To have the privilege to showcase my hard work and training was an amazing opportunity,” said Ruiz.
Prior to the Defender Challenge, team members arrived at Peterson AFB Sept. 1, to begin a seven-day training program. Room clearing simulations, land navigation exercises and firearms training filled their schedules, topped off by a 60-pound ruck march up the 2,744 step Manitou Springs Incline, featuring a 2,000 foot elevation gain.
The top members of each AFSPC security forces squadron were chosen to represent the major command at the international competition. Selectees earned their spots based on their firing ability, physical fitness and combat readiness through tryouts hosted at each base.