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Air Force develops hard-hitting Defender Challenge 2020 drills for Security Forces

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas --

The U.S. Air Force Defender Challenge 2020 will pit Security Forces teams against each other in San Antonio, Texas, May 11-15, 2020.

Defenders will prove their abilities in dismounted skills, endurance, agility, individual weapons, and military working dog (MWD) teams through a series of gut-testing challenges. This year, Security Forces expanded the competitor pool to 19 teams from across the U.S. Air Force major commands, U.S. Army Military Police, and with our coalition partners.   

Brig. Gen. Roy Collins, Air Force Director of Security Forces, says his intent is to demonstrate improved Defender lethality and readiness to defend our personnel and resources in any environment to ensure mission success. 

“Our Defenders will push themselves to the breaking point in these readiness trials to showcase the capabilities we bring to the fight, while displaying our competitive spirit and camaraderie that makes us unique,” Collins said.

This year, the challenges are tougher. The dismounted skills assessment, known as combat endurance, will measure strength, endurance, agility, teamwork, leadership, problem solving and knowledge of core skills. Competitors can expect to encounter multiple training objectives throughout the patrol to test their grit and measure the team’s cohesion and resiliency, such as medical aid, fire and maneuver, and land navigation.   

The combat agility competition objective will test functional fitness and the ability to execute tasks in a field-based evaluation under stress.

The weapons challenge evolved into a practical application where shooters will engage in scenario-based shooting events at the individual, pair and fire team levels in the near, middle and far distances. This event will require active engagement, quicker reaction to situations and higher weapons expertise to prove proficiency on weapons.

A new event this year pits premiere MWD teams against a series of dismounted skills assessments in much the same manner as the combat endurance competition. The MWD and handler are judged as a team through a series of patrol and explosives detection-based field problems.

There is more to Air Force Defender Challenge 2020 than the competition. 

Chief Master Sgt. Tamara Hartz, Security Forces Career Field Manager, explained that not only will those events determine the most lethal and most ready team, “they will also inform us of things we need to do in our training capacity to help create the best Defender warfighter for the Air Force. Training is the foundation that makes us more lethal and more ready,” Hartz said. 

“We updated our training over the past few years as part of the Reconstitute Defender Initiative. By looking at how our Defenders accomplish these events, we can fine-tune our training programs moving us from qualified to proficient in our core skills using lessons learned from this year’s competition to improve them,” explained Hartz. “Using Defender Challenge as both a showcase for talent and a way to assess training needs, we will continue to develop more lethal and capable security forces Airmen.”

Many of the teams who competed in 2018 will be back to defend their titles. Others will take the opportunity to take it from them. In 2018 PACAF won the Defender Challenge title by taking first in the weapons competition, placing second in the dismounted operations challenge, and scoring well in the combat agility.

PACAF won the weapons competition and displayed the highest marksmanship skills of all teams in that category. They won the Coleman Cup, named after Brig. Gen. Richard Coleman, former U.S. Air Force Security Forces Center director of security forces and commander from 1997 to 2000.

Air Mobility Command won the Sadler Cup. The award is presented to the top team in the dismounted operations challenge, named after Maj. Gen. Thomas Sadler, who served as Air Force Chief of Security Police from 1975-1977. 

United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force (RAF) Regiment previously held the trophy since winning it at the 2003 Defender Challenge.

In the combat endurance relay event, the German Air Force came out on top, and Lance Cpl. Adam Butler of the RAF team won the Outstanding Defender Award for demonstrating exceptional leadership throughout the competition.

“This year’s event will continue to evaluate our tactics, techniques and procedures and build upon our lessons learned, while working jointly with our world-wide partners, both in competition and crosstalk,” Collins said. “More lethal and more ready!”