Global Strike Challenge accepted

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Nathan Dampf
  • 131st Bomb Wing Public Affairs
More than 80 Airmen from the 509th Bomb Wing and Missouri Air National Guard's 131st Bomb Wing here recently defended their Global Strike Challenge title in this year's competition.

The total force team won the coveted Fairchild Trophy during the last competition, held in 2012, and have won the top prize in two of three competition years.  There was no competition in 2013 due to sequestration. 

"When a challenge is put out, our Airmen are dialed-in to show who they are," said 509th Maintenance Group Commander Col. Chase McCown, in a message to evaluators before the competition started here Oct. 8. "Evaluators will see a total force integration effort. We'll show how our wings have worked together day-in and day-out."

The Global Strike Challenge is the world's premier bomber, intercontinental ballistic missile and security forces competition. The Challenge's three primary goals are to build esprit de corps, recognize the Air Force's global strike teams and help enhance the Air Force's combat capabilities by spotlighting areas of improvement.

"One of the challenge's primary goals is to build camaraderie," said Col. Kimbra Sterr, commander of the 131st Maintenance Group. "You can see that at Whiteman as 509th active duty Airmen and 131st Guardsmen work side-by-side. Some evaluators who have been involved in past inspections and competitions here are going to see the same relationship they've seen in past years, and that is a seamless one."

The security forces, operations and maintenance personnel were evaluated in several key areas. The competition judges the Airmen's proficiencies through functional area knowledge assessments, timed exercises and thorough inspections of the aircraft and equipment. Before the challenge on base, the 509th Security Forces team was evaluated offsite. Starting off the competition at Whiteman, all competitors participated in a dress and appearance inspection. From there, teams from munitions, maintenance squadrons and weapons load teams displayed their skills in their functional areas. 

During one such exercise, munitions Airmen assembled a munitions assembly conveyor and 15 conventional weapons, as evaluators timed the exercise and reviewed the end results to ensure all bombs were assembled and organized correctly. Evaluators even went so far as to review the minute details of the shop's toolbox.

The Airmen performed well, said Chief Master Sgt. Douglass Collins, superintendent for the 509th Munitions Squadron.

"Exercises like this are only required one time per year," said Collins. "We have been training for this opportunity for the last couple months over and over. It has improved camaraderie, validated the training we've done and presented opportunities for improvement later."

On day two of the challenge, inspectors visited with weapons loaders and crew chiefs. Evaluators viewed how well a team was equipped to load 15 weapons on the B-2 Spirit. Several of the Airmen were eager to show what they had to offer to the mission and to the defense of team Whiteman's title.

"We're excited it's finally here," said Staff Sgt. Jeremie Key, weapons loader with the 131st MXG. "There is some pressure since we've won it in the past. But, we do this every day, so we're just happy to showcase what we can do through the competition."

Following the weapons load assessment, evaluators then held a thorough inspection with the aircraft's crew chief team, which was split half active duty and half Guard Airmen. The participants in this portion were asked knowledge questions to see how well they knew the subject matter, and were then asked to inspect a specific component of the plane with the evaluator.

"Challenges like this give us the chance to show what we bring to the fight as the two wings work together," said Staff Sgt. Travis Weiler, crew chief with 131st MXG. "We've been preparing for this and I think when the inspectors leave this base, they'll be talking about how TFI works."

Whiteman's active duty Airmen and Missouri's Citizen Airmen have been working alongside each other since the 131st moved from Lambert Airport in St. Louis in 2007. Working side-by-side, the units are competing for multiple Global Strike Challenge awards, including: the Fairchild Trophy (best bomber unit), Ellis Giant Sword Trophy (best bomber maintenance group), as well as other specific team and team chiefs awards.

The units on Whiteman have won several of the awards in the past, including the Fairchild Award. But, munitions leaders tout the competition is more than awards. It is about the confidence decision makers can have in the units to get the job done.

"The bottom line is, we're ready," said Collins. "And, if we're called by the president in the middle of the night, not only will we meet expectations, we'll exceed them."

Other competing Global Strike Command units include 90th Missile Wing of F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming; the 91st Missile Wing and 5th Bomb Wing of Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota; the 341st Missile Wing of Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana; and the 2nd Bomb Wing of Barksdale Air Force Base Louisiana.