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AFGSC defenders take high marks at Defender Challenge 2023

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Landon Gunsauls
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs

Defender Challenge returned in 2023 after a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but for one defender, the competition bringing together Airmen from across the Air Force was personal. Then Airman 1st Class Jacob King, 90th Security Forces Squadron area supervisor in the Weapons Storage Area, first competed in 2018, then made his return to Defender Challenge 2023 as a staff sergeant ready to tackle the competition.

Held at Fort Bliss, Texas, from Oct. 23 - 27, Defender Challenge is a competition where security forces Airmen from across the Air Force’s major commands test their skills in head-to-head scenarios where their physical endurance and core operational skills are the focus of the challenges.

For King, the Defender Challenge is an opportunity to connect with fellow defenders from across the force and reconnect with those he’s met before.

“Defender Challenge is special to me, first as an airman 1st class in 2018, which opened me up to something more in Security Forces,” said King, “But now, five years later, what really made it special was reuniting with so many true brothers from across my time in the Air Force, the new relationships created, and the opportunity to be a part of such an amazing hard-working team who had such love for one another from day one.”

King didn’t tackle the challenge alone, though, and after a rigorous and thorough selection process that put him up against 60 defenders from across Air Force Global Strike Command, he was one of 5 selected to represent the MAJCOM at Defender Challenge 2023.

The team had 15 days between Global Strike Challenge and Defender Challenge to train before heading to Fort Bliss to in-process and begin the competition.

“The training plan had to be developed immediately based on the guidance provided in the Defender Challenge operations order,” said Master Sgt. Daniel Hadley, coach for the AFGSC team. “Based on the dates provided, Master Sgt. Zavala and I produced a 15-day training plan to prepare the team for the fitness challenge, tactics, and weapons firing events.”

The team was put to the test over their 15 days of rigorous training, but they came to the challenge with high expectations. The team used 15 different training areas for usage, with help along the way from Camp Guernsey personnel. The team worked right up until the day before reporting, and arriving at the competition on Oct. 21, they were seen as the team to beat.

“We were seen as a force to be reckoned with and our performance backed it up. After each day of competing, we took first in whatever event we did,” said King. “In short, we at Global Strike had a lot expected of us by the security forces enterprise and we did everything but disappoint.”

The AFGSC team came in second place for this year’s Defender Challenge, with the highest score in weapons, second place finish in fitness, and fifth highest score in tactics.

“The team preformed professionally and conquered everything Zavala and I gave them during training,” said Hadley, “They executed the competition as a team and we could not be prouder of their accomplishments”