INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey --
Our U.S. Air Force Security Forces members, or defenders, are charged with the mission of protection. Since September 11th, 2001, all defenders have focused on just that, with protection coming in many forms, whether guarding a gate, patrolling or making runs on a deployment. After 14 years, though, a little friendly competition is needed.
After this long hiatus, the well-known competition among Security Forces Airmen, the Defender Challenge, was reinstated.
Two defenders from the 39th Security Forces Squadron at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, have fought and trained for weeks to showcase their security forces skill sets and fight for two of six spots on the United States Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa’s Defender Challenge team.
“[For the past few weeks] we have been prepping for the 2018 Defender Challenge,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Andre Sanchez-Romero, 39th Security Forces Squadron flight chief. “Due to some of our host nation restrictions, we had to get creative while preparing our defenders to go compete at the USAFE level.”
The two defenders had to test themselves against nine other 39th SFS members by taking a U.S. Air Force physical fitness test, a three mile run with gear and a multitude of shooting trials before earning the slots for a trip to Ramstein Air Base, Germany to compete.
“The end goal [for the defenders] is to showcase their proficiencies that we have in our career field including shooting, combatives and physical fitness,” said Sanchez-Romero. “We were looking for the best of the best.”
After being officially selected, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ryan Santiago, 39th SFS unit training instructor and U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jomalier Viera-Martinez, 39th SFS response force leader geared up and made their way to Ramstein AB where they will compete during the first week for a top 12 spot.
“It has been an awesome opportunity to be able to compete and train at Incirlik AB,” said Santiago. “I am now looking forward to training in Germany to compete for two of the six slots for the USAFE team.”
Even through the difficulties of limited resources, such as limited ruck-march courses and land navigation restrictions, the two defenders feel extremely confident with their odds in the competition.
“I’m looking forward to competing; I want to win. I’m ready to get out there, I’m ready to see what the competition is like, but it doesn’t matter because we are going to go out there and win,” said Viera-Martinez. “At the end of the day, we have been working with what we have, grinding and make the best of what we got, and at the end of the day the results will show.”