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Lethal competition: ICBM operations challenges wing missileers

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series covering the competition categories of Global Strike Challenge.

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. – Missile operators from around the command competed over the summer in Global Strike Challenge, to determine which crew will be named the “best of the best” at the competition’s culminating event next month.

GSC intercontinental ballistic missile operations competition consists of an approximately two-hour simulation in the missile procedures trainer. Each missile squadron submits their best missile combat crew to compete as wing representatives. The missile combat crew consists of one missile combat crew commander and one deputy missile combat crew commander.

The competition is designed to enhance readiness, lethality, teamwork, mission pride, competitive spirit and recognize the “best of the best” in weapons systems and technical expertise.

During the course of the two-hour simulation, the two-man team was presented real-world problems and scenarios that must be solved using established or new tactics, techniques and procedures. Each problem involves multiple challenges in security, maintenance, weapons system operation and emergency action procedures.

This year, the ICBM operations competition drew inspiration from Air Force Global Strike Command commander Gen. Tim Ray’s, “Fight the Base” concept. This concept, part of the command’s “2020 Vision and Beyond” strategic plan, focuses on reinvigorating and revising wing exercise programs to strengthen preparedness for potential attacks and threats.

Missileers had to effectively operate in the communication-contested environment that would occur if a power grid was turned off for weeks following a cyber-attack.

“Competing in Global Strike Challenge was a very humbling experience for me,” said 1st Lt. Danielle Klavik, 742nd Missile Squadron deputy missile combat crew commander. “At Vandenberg, and even at each missile wing, we are trained to be proficient in our weapons system and in our job, so that when tensions rise we know exactly what to do. GSC challenges you by taking away the capabilities we rely on day to day, forcing us to think and respond to scenarios in a more realistic way. We’re one of the strongest defenses for our country and holding that responsibility is something we do not take lightly. I had to find a way problem solve and remain calm in a moment that would determine whether millions of individuals lived or died.”

Each problem set was scored on a predetermined scale by competition judges comprised of active-duty missileers who work on the headquarters staff. These scores determine the winner of the Linhard trophy, the trophy for the best ICBM crew; the Neary trophy, for the best emergency war order performance; and the McMahon trophy, the trophy for the best weapons system performance.

The ICBM operation scores are combined with other competition scores for their wing to help determine the Klotz and Blanchard trophies for the best missile and helicopter wing, as well as the best wing respectively.
 

“Being able to highlight your best and brightest operators through competition is great—bringing home the Blanchard is even greater.  Still, our goal in conducting GSC is to push our operators towards becoming a more lethal and ready force who can compete in any environment should deterrence fail,” said Capt. Brian Coyne, ICBM operations competition lead. “Through competition these young officers develop new and innovative tactics, techniques, and procedures to better operate in an AOR where we’re no longer guaranteed sanctuary just because we’re stateside.”

Global Strike Challenge concludes Nov. 20 with score posting and trophy presentations at Hoban Hall on Barksdale AFB.