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Defender Challenge competition under way

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFPN) -- Ten security forces teams from U.S. Air Force major commands worldwide, the Department of Energy and the Royal Air Force Regiment gathered here to participate in the 20th annual Defender Challenge competition Oct. 21 to 24.

"This is a competition of our all-stars," said Brig. Gen. James Shamess, director of U.S. Air Force security forces. "The security force members here not only get to display their abilities, but are testing new equipment that will be implemented over the next few years."

This year's competition is a test-bed for new weapons and equipment, including the M-4 rifle, which is replacing the M-16 rifle in the security forces arsenal. Participants will also as evaluate a new day and night sighting system.

"We get to experience new equipment before our counterparts," said Staff Sgt. Brian Mack, a U.S. Air Forces in Europe team member from the 65th Security Forces Squadron at Lajes Field, Azores. "That's a benefit to our home squadrons because we have knowledge of the equipment when it is brought on board."

The teams had two-weeks to practice before coming to the competition.

"Our team practiced everyday from 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on everything from (physical training) and nutrition to marksmanship," said Senior Airman Stephen Pak, an Air Combat Command team member. "We competed against each other to simulate the pressure we are going to have this week."

"This was extremely challenging for the team," said Tech Sgt. Mike Moreno, ACC team captain. "There were nine competitors, but only eight would end up on the world team. So, each member had to give their all because they were continually vying for a position on this elite team."

Teams compete this week in three head-to-head events in the craft and tools of their trade -- weapons employment and tactics.

"It's hard work," said Mack. "For the younger troops, they are learning and applying skills that they normally don't use if they are working the gates or patrolling -- it's a challenge.

One event in this year's competition is the pistol competition, a fast-paced, timed course of fire on a computer-driven firing range. The pistol competition features pop-up and steel plate targets representing friend and foe, hostage, no-shoot and interactive targets.

Forces also compete in a combined nighttime fire team field exercise. In this event, two fire teams engage targets up to 600 meters away while contending with rugged terrain and booby traps.

Competitors will vie for the Sadler Cup during a tactical exercise considered the toughest test in Defender Challenge. The Sadler Cup event requires teams to plan and execute a challenging tactical operation on short notice. Detailed planning, tactical know-how and strong leadership are all necessary to successfully accomplish this event. The event is named after Maj. Gen. Thomas M. Sadler, a former director of Air Force security forces.

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