AF crowns Readiness Challenge VIII winners, plans FOC event in 2023

  • Published
  • By Debbie Aragon
  • Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center Public Affairs

Following a more than 20-year competition hiatus, the Air Force civil engineering community crowned winners of the Air Force Civil Engineer Readiness Challenge April 22.

Surrounded by a crowd of more than 400 civil engineers — competitors, cadre and team supporters — Air Force Civil Engineer Center commander Maj. Gen. John Allen announced the team and individual winners of this year’s eight-team, initial operational capability competition with the 934th Civil Engineer Squadron taking top honors.

From Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, the 934th represented Air Force Reserve Command and are taking home the Brig. Gen. William T. Meredith trophy as the “Best of the Best Team.”

The 1st Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron from Hurlburt Field, Florida, representing Air Force Special Operations Command, took second place team and the 60th Civil Engineer Squadron from Travis AFB, California, took third.

“I’m proud of these Air Force civil engineers,” Allen said. “What they are doing, what they did this week is so important to the very things that we’re doing in forward locations in the Pacific and all other parts of the globe … there’s a connection there and we’re going to reestablish that connection [through Readiness Challenges]. I can’t say enough about them, and I’m proud to be around them.”

The challenge is the career field’s capstone event that demonstrates Department of the Air Force civil engineers are ready to conduct full-spectrum, integrated base response and recovery operations.

This year’s five-day challenge showcased more than 20 events of various core CE disciplines -- everything from rapidly replacing segments of a runway, installing a mobile aircraft arresting system and laying out emergency airfield lighting, to building a guard shack from the ground up, surveying an area, firefighting, and explosive ordnance disposal skills.

More than 300 competitors represented AFRC, the Air National Guard, Air Combat Command, AFSOC, Air Mobility Command, Pacific Air Forces, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and U.S. Space Force.

Readiness Challenge VIII, held at Tyndall AFB’s Silver Flag Exercise site, was hosted by AFCEC, a primary subordinate unit of the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center.

With AFCEC’s Readiness Directorate planning and facilitating the competition with support from AFIMSC, it was the partnership between AFCEC and the 823rd RED HORSE Squadron Detachment 1 that carried it over the finish line, said Maj. Khary Davis, AFCEC Readiness Challenge event lead.

“This initiative to revive Readiness Challenge as a marque event in the combat support community wouldn't have been possible without the hard work, dedication and commitment of Tyndall’s 823rd RED HORSE (Squadron) who executed the competition,” Davis said.

A Beta test of the challenge was conducted in 2018. Only three teams competed then. The expansion to eight teams for Readiness Challenge VIII was an undertaking but showed what is possible. It allowed the teams to demonstrate their warrior ethos and validate their skills and abilities while further honing them.

“Installations and airfields are the Air Force weapons platforms, and we maintain and restore these weapon platforms so we have to be able to do that in any environment anytime, anyplace,” Davis said.

Many of the competitors previously attended different regional training sites to top off their skills, so they understood the significance of being ready at any moment but didn’t know, in advance, the wide variety of events they’d face.

“They came prepared to tackle all of the events we threw at them and loved the competition,” Davis said. “ … jumping in to do tasks outside of their CE specialties, showing the multi-capable skills that we need to be a ready and lethal force.”

With Readiness Challenge VIII now in the history books, Davis said he’s looking forward to the hundreds of participants going back to their units and spreading the word about what the event is and getting excited for future events.

Thoughts of many now turn to Readiness Challenge IX — a bigger, full operational capability event – that Allen announced would take place in the Spring of 2023.

“There’s a lot of excitement and we’ve got 320 new Readiness Challenge disciples that are out there talking around the Air Force about how great this is,” Allen said. “And we’re looking forward to being back here in a year.”

In addition to the Meredith trophy winners, Allen announced the following Readiness Challenge VIII team and individual awards:

Expeditionary airfield lighting system install: 60th CES

Rapid explosive hazard mitigation: 366th CES from Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, representing ACC

Level loop for vertical construction: 673rd Civil Engineer Group from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, representing PACAF

Aircraft live fire operations: 1st SOCES

Airfield rapid damage repair: 934th CES

Mobile aircraft arresting system: Tie between 60th CES and 31st CES from Aviano Air Base, Italy, representing USAFE. The tie was broken by a tug of war competition with the 60th taking the win.

Airfield spall repair: 934th CES

Reverse osmosis water purification unit operations: 1st SOCES

Joint tactical communications operations: 60th CES

Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear control center operations: 1st SOCES

Guard shack build: Air National Guard team