HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah —
The Air Force Materiel Command security forces team captured third place overall at the 2018 Defender Challenge.
The team, led by a duo of Hill Air Force Base 75th Security Forces Squadron Airmen, missed placing in the three individual categories, but still bested all but two other teams overall.
Staff Sgt. Melvin Hale, 75th SFS, said their balanced training prepared them for the challenge and allowed them to do well enough in each event to finish third overall.
“We were an extremely well rounded team,” Hale said. “We weren’t great at a singular event, but we were consistently good at everything.”
Hale said they performed especially well in the dismounted operations and marksmanship events, but some unfortunate penalties kept them from placing higher in those categories.
The Defender Challenge pitted 13 security forces teams against each other in realistic weapons scenarios, simulated dismounted operations and grueling combat endurance events. The challenge was revived after a 14-year hiatus in an effort to increase the competitive spirit and competency of the participants.
The top AFMC security forces members from around the command trained at Hill for three weeks prior to event. David Small, who led the training, said he could trace the team’s success to being able to integrate the team with Hill experts from multiple fields.
“We did not stay security forces centric with the training,” Small said. “We went to the subject matter experts, such as EOD, and the medical group. That allowed our team to see things from a different perspective, and that was huge.”
Despite the rigorous nature of the training and the challenges at the event, Hale said he would absolutely do it again.
“We had an awesome team and it was a great experience,” he said. “It was both physically and mentally challenging, but I’m already looking forward to trying out again next year.”
The team consisted of Hale, Airman 1st Class Matthew Kopf, 75th SFS; Master Sgt. Leif Gisselberg, Air Force Research Lab, Det. 15, Hawaii; and Tech. Sgt. Jakob Haase, Tinker AFB, Okla. Tech. Sgt. Chad Hardesty and Senior Airman Elijah Strafford of Edwards AFB, Calif., were alternates.
The Pacific Air Forces took first place overall, while the Air Combat Command captured second place. For more about the event, visit https://www.afsfc.af.mil/Home/DefenderChallenge/.