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Lethal competition: Helicopter operations showcase pilots’ skills

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

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. – Three helicopter squadrons from the 582nd Helicopter Group represented their respective wings during the Global Strike Challenge 2019 helicopter operations competition at Camp Guernsey, Wyoming, over the summer.

Squadrons include the 37th helicopter squadron from F.E. Warren AFB, the 40th helicopter squadron from Malmstrom AFB, and the 54th helicopter squadron from Minot AFB.

Global Strike Challenge is designed to enhance readiness, lethality, teamwork, mission pride, competitive spirit and recognize the “best of the best” in weapons systems and technical expertise. The wings will find out who is named the best at the competition’s culminating event later this month.

Each Air Force Global Strike Command helicopter squadron fields their best aircrew, two pilots and two special mission aviators, to represent their wing.

GSC helicopter operations competition consisted of three mission areas:

  1. Night vision goggles tactical
  2. Aerial gunnery
  3. Security response

The NVG tactical area consisted of compressed mission planning, infiltration, employment and exfiltration of a team and timed tactical routes. Aerial gunnery events tested the crew’s ability to perform two specific attack patterns, while security response involved a timed scramble launch, low altitude tactics, high altitude tactics, forward-looking infrared employment and sniper insertion and employment.

“Events like Global Strike Challenge are very rewarding experiences,” Capt. Trevor Schultz, UH-1N instructor pilot from the 40th Helicopter Squadron said. “Being a part of the helicopter squadron, our capabilities have been greatly enhanced over the past few years with the addition of the M240D machine guns. Global Strike Challenge affords us the opportunity to present those capabilities to our mission partners and prove just how well we can operate as a lethal fighting force in support of our Nation’s nuclear enterprise.”

The helicopter operations competition drew inspiration from Air Force Global Strike Command commander Gen. Tim Ray’s, “Fight the Base” concept, which includes the missile complex and nuclear surety. As part of the command’s “2020 Vision and Beyond” strategic plan, the concept focuses on reinvigorating and revising wing exercise programs to strengthen preparedness for potential attacks and threats.

Each mission area event was scored on a predetermined scale by competition judges comprised of subject matter experts and headquarters staff.

These scores determine the winner of the Bourland trophy for the best helicopter squadron, as well as the trophies for the best helicopter convoy response and best helicopter security response.

The helicopter operations scores are combined with other competition scores from their wing to help determine the Klotz best missile and helicopter wing, as well as the Blanchard trophy for the best missile wing.

“Global Strike Challenge enhances our lethality and readiness by challenging our integrated tactics and preparation in a dynamic environment, while promoting a competitive spirit and esprit de corps,” Maj. Joseph Parrish, GSC helicopter operations team lead, said.

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