DOE dominates Defender Challenger
By Chief Master Sgt. Gary Emery , Air Force Print News
/ Published October 17, 2003
LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Air Force and British security forces teams already have their targets picked out for next year’s Defender Challenge competition: The men in black from the Department of Energy.
The DOE federal agents may be a tough target to hit, based on the dominance of their 10-man team at Defender Challenge 2003, held near here Oct. 10 to 16 at the Army’s Camp Bullis training site. The team, competing for only their second year in the Air Force’s all-star security forces competition, bested 11 select teams from Air Force major commands and the Royal Air Force Regiment to earn the Defender Challenge Champion title.
Along the way, they won the Sadler Cup tactical exercise and the team handgun competition. The team also placed second in the combat rifle event and had two members place in M-4 rifle competition. Given those results, it was no surprise that DOE members also went away with the Coleman Cup for overall marksmanship.
Like the military competitors in this year’s event, the DOE team had to factor in a heavy operations tempo when building their team, said Robert McLaughlin, the team trainer.
“Because of our mission, getting 11 agents off the road at one time was almost impossible,” he said.
DOE agents, who number fewer than 300, provide safe and secure transportation of sensitive and classified nuclear material, including nuclear weapons, McLaughlin said.
The DOE team may have had a little payback in mind, said Lt. Col. Merrill Adkison, the Defender Challenge director of competition from the Air Force Security Forces Center here. The Air Force sent a security forces team to compete in DOE’s “Shootout in the Smokies” two years ago, and the Air Force marksmen came out on top.
“That (win by the Air Force) was the start of a great rivalry, and I think it’s awesome,” Adkison said. “They came here to compete at the highest level, and it showed. They are a team of true professionals.”
Not every trophy and medal went to the federal agents, though. The defenders of Air Education and Training Command won the grueling Warrior Challenge event, one of the toughest competitions in the 21-year history of Defender Challenge.
In the Warrior Challenge, teams in full combat gear ran a two-mile, timed course sprinkled with strength-sapping obstacles that required teamwork as well as stamina to negotiate at top speed. At several stations along the way, competitors were required to demonstrate first aid, land navigation and chemical/biological warfare-protection skills to watchful judges. The judges even pulled some team members aside to complete written tests.
Following the last skills station, competitors sprinted the final 300 meters wearing their chemical-warfare masks and immediately engaged 40 targets with live handgun fire. The clock finally stopped only after the shooters, still in their masks, dropped the last target. There was no rest for the weary competitors, though, who immediately began the individual handgun course of fire. That portion featured another Defender Challenge first -- return fire from a remotely controlled gun that fired foam pellets at the shooters as they moved along the course.
“(Warrior Challenge) was a lot different than previous obstacle-course competitions,” said Tech. Sgt. Daniel Hoyme, an AETC team member from the 342nd Training Squadron here. “For this one, we carried our weapons, so getting over the obstacles required a team effort.
“We knew we had a good chance to win,” Hoyme said. “We’re a fast team, and we trained pretty hard for the obstacle-course portion.”
The Air Mobility Command team shot their way to top honors in the Combat Rifle competition. In this event, the clock started when teams were given the command to assemble their field-stripped M-4 rifles, M-249 Squad Automatic Weapons and M-240B machine guns. The teams then moved cross-country to the firing line under combat conditions and engaged pop-up targets up to 600 meters (660 feet) away with withering live fire. Each team’s three grenadiers then moved to the grenade range, where they fired at targets using the M-203 grenade launcher.
The Sadler Cup tactical exercise, named for pioneer security forces director Maj. Gen. Thomas M. Sadler, had several high-tech twists this year. The scenario called for teams to provide security for a multinational peacekeeping effort. Their mission required them to enter a small city and stop guerillas preparing to shoot down a relief aircraft with a man-portable missile.
To prepare for the mission, competitors spent time at the Force Protection Battlelab here, where lab members have given new meaning to the term “reality TV.” The teams were able to take a virtual tour of the entire exercise area and then planned their attack using video-game technology.
They guided virtual airmen through the village to the building where the bad guys lurked. Every detail of the actual village was reproduced in the game, down to doors that opened in the right direction. Competitors used the video game to plan every move of their assault.
The competitors also had some high-tech help in the real-world exercise area. A small unmanned aerial vehicle, the Force Protection Airborne Surveillance System, beamed video to controllers, who gave the teams a heads-up on enemy movements. A powerful new ground-based radar system provided crucial data, as did passive intrusion-detection systems.
Defender Challenge annually pits “the best of the best” defenders in head-to-head team competition in the craft and tools of their trade -- weapons and tactics. The competition also serves as a test-bed for new weapons, equipments and tactics. The competition was first held as a marksmanship contest in 1952 and was modified to an Olympics-style series of events in 1981.
Individual category winners were:
M-4 Rifleman -- Royal Air Force Cpl. Anthony Doherty.
M-4 Designated Marksman -- Staff Sgt. Stephen Pak from Air Combat Command.
M-249 Auto Rifleman -- RAF Senior Aircraftman David Walker.
M-240B Machine Gunner -- RAF Senior Aircraftman David Kelly and Cpl. Neil Daley.
M-203 Grenade Launcher -- Staff. Sgt. Gregory Littlejohn from AMC.
Handgun -- Tech. Sgt. Ryan Sprauer from AMC.
Special award winners:
Chief of Staff of the Air Force Ultimate Warrior -- Pak.
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Award -- Doherty.
Commandant-General’s Award -- Tech. Sgt William Brown from Air Force Reserve Command.
Noncommissioned Officer Association Spirit Award -- Air Force Materiel Command.