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The Tradition Continues: Global Strike Challenge

Posted 8/2/2010   Updated 8/3/2010 Email story   Print story


by Lt. Col. Lloyd Buzzell
341st Operations Support Squadron

8/2/2010 - MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- In late 1966, the Commander in Chief, Strategic Air Command announced plans for the first SAC Missile Combat Competition. On Nov. 16 of this year, Global Strike Challenge will kick off in Shreveport, La., at Barksdale Air Force Base. It will mark the 43rd anniversary of the missile competition.

The History
The history and tradition of Global Strike Challenge started more than 40 years ago when it was called "Curtain Raiser" - the first Space and Missile Competition. In 1967, it was called the Strategic Air Command Missile Combat Competition, with only ICBM wings competing.

It started small, with two missile crews and a targeting team representing each of the six Minuteman and three Titan II wings. There was no competition in 1968 due to the Vietnam War, but SAC decided the following year that an event was needed to recognize and motivate the new missile force. It has continued ever since, transitioning from a SAC event to an Air Combat Command event for 1993, and then became the Air Force Space Command Space and Missile Competition, "Guardian Challenge," in 1994. It was cancelled in 2003 and 2005 due to the war in Iraq and budget constraints, and it was moved to Peterson AFB, Colo., for 2006. At that time, the event was changed to be held every two years so no competition was held in 2007 or 2009. Air Force Global Strike Command has now named the competition "Global Strike Challenge" with missile crews, maintenance and security forces, and bomber crews competing this year.

A Look Back at the Transformation
The early competition format offered something entirely new and challenging with extremely difficult simulator scripts designed around multiple problems and a provision for timing. Crews would not only be scored on how accurately they completed requirements, but how fast they did them as well. In 1969, the event grew a little, with two combat crews and two maintenance teams from each wing. The score postings for Olympic Arena '69 saw a serious and formal award ceremony with members in service dress was the format. Commendation medals for crew teams that won were presented and promotions for the enlisted winners were given. The 321st SMW won by 1.5 points that year.

The makeup of the wing teams evolved and changed many times over the next few years. In 1970, more varieties of missile maintenance teams meant larger wing contingents. In 1973, Minuteman I competition functions were conducted at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo., since there was no longer a Minuteman I silo available at Vandenberg AFB, Calif. Security forces teams became part of the event in 1975, and for the first time, females competed as team members. In 1976, civil engineer and communications maintenance teams were added. By 1977, there were 30 wing or team trophies in addition to the Blanchard that were presented.

Sizes of the team shrunk in 1978, due to financial considerations, with fewer competitors. For 1978, 1979 and 1980, the Titan maintenance events were conducted at McConnell AFB, Kan., because the Titan II site wasn't available at Vandenberg AFB, either.

In 1982, the name "Olympic Arena" was dropped and the event was just called the Missile Combat Competition and the 44th Strategic Missile Wing at Ellsworth AFB, S.D., edged the 381st SMW at McConnell by just one point to capture the Blanchard Trophy. The Titan missile wings finished 1-2-3 in 1983 over the Minuteman wings. That year, the 381st also joined the 351st SMW at Whiteman AFB, Mo., as the only unit to win the Blanchard Trophy four times.

In 1984, there were only two Titan wings left to compete, and the term Olympic Arena was reinstated for 1986. Titan wings competed for the last time that year. In 1987, for the 20th anniversary, the event was called "Olympic Shield," but Olympic Arena was back in use the next year.

The first year for female operations competitors was marked in 1988. For the first time, crews were also randomly selected for the event and Peacekeeper missiles were part of the event. In 1991, the 341st Strategic Missile Wing garnered the first ever back-to-back win.

In 1993, a new command was the host. This was the only year ACC hosted the event. It was also the last year for Olympic Arena.

The following year, Air Force Space Command was the home of the six Minuteman wings, and the command restructured the event into the Space and Missile Competition, with the space wings at Patrick, Vandenberg and Peterson Air Force Bases joining the competition. The event was changed to a squadron-level competition, with the Blanchard Trophy for the best missile operations squadron and the Leffler Trophy for the best missile maintenance squadron. The security forces didn't compete in 1994, but returned in 1995 when helicopters also joined the competition. The 44th MW at Ellsworth deactivated in 1994, and the 351st MW at Whiteman competed for the last time.

To celebrate the merger of space and missile career fields, and the transfer of 20th Air Force to Air Force Space Command in1993, the competition was renamed "Guardian Challenge," reflecting space command's motto, "Guardians of the High Frontier."

In 1998, Guardian Challenge returned to a wing competition with the missile wings competing for the Blanchard Trophy. In 1999, the competition was scaled down to accommodate an increased operations tempo and reduced financial resources. Score posting was cut to one night and the competition ended a day earlier. In 2000, missile site chefs and code controllers competed for the first time. The 2003 competition was cancelled because of the commitments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. This was only the second time in the history of the competition that it was cancelled. For the 2006 and 2008 events, competitors gathered at Peterson AFB for the final events, but only the security forces competed there. All other competitive exercises were conducted at each unit's home base.

A New Page in History
This year, a new page in history begins when Global Strike Challenge consolidates missile competition and bomb competition. Under Air Force Global Strike Command's guidance, it promises to maintain the historic competitor spirit which has evolved over 43 years.

The missile combat competition goals include recognizing superior people; enhancing esprit de corps while strengthening teamwork; improving readiness and combat capabilities through preparation, innovation, competition and teamwork; creating competition-tough crews; and sending the message that the command is prepared.

The tradition continues!

Editor's Note: The majority of the content for this article was extracted from the Association of Air Force Missileers Newsletter, September 2007 edition.

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