As the United States contends with its two super-adversaries and other players on numerous fronts, America’s Air Force is doing its part to be 2022-ready.
The Global Strike Challenge is another piece of the innovation puzzle that helps ensure protection from aggressive nations.
“Without getting too specific, certainly we are seeing every opportunity right now, including Global Strike Challenge, to get to these cutting edge tactics, techniques and procedures that we would have to apply to that peer adversary should the day come,” said Lt. Col. Greg Watson, a third-year challenge participant and weapons systems officer with the 343rd Bomb Squadron at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.
The Global Strike Challenge is a bomber, Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, helicopter operations and security forces competition with units from the Air Force Global Strike Command, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve Command and Air Combat Command.
Nearly 450 competitors participate in Global Strike Challenge events at various locations.
Challenge requires ‘outside-the-container’ thinking
One of its primary aims is to use military modernization via innovation. It requires airmen to tap into their respective skill sets and think critically to solve a challenge or problem.
Global Strike Challenge ’21 top awards recipients:
Fairchild Trophy – Best Bomb Wing, 7th Bomb Wing at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas
Blanchard Trophy – Best ICBM Wing, 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom AFB, Montana
Bourland Trophy – Best Helicopter Squadron, 40th Helicopter Squadron, Malmstrom AFB, Montana
Charlie Fire Team Trophy – Best Security Forces, 341st Missile Wing, Malmstrom AFB, Montana
Ellis Giant Sword Trophy – Best bomber maintenance, 7th Bomb Wing, Dyess AFB, Texas
“This year’s competition has been ramped up, and we’ve asked our airmen to demonstrate excellence using modern tools, technology and tactics, and they have done so in spades,” said Lt. Col. Robert Fore, lead Global Strike Challenge ’21 coordinator, in a statement.
The crews tested tactics, techniques and procedures, which aren’t assessed daily, through a complex problem.
“Global Strike did a really good job presenting us with a tactical problem that was not pure vanilla,” Watson said. “It required some outside-the-container thinking, if you will, to get that accomplished.”
The competition, according to Watson, provided useful and applicable practice.
“So from our perspective — we fly B-52s here at Barksdale on the reserve side — not only did we have to apply some kind of non-typical tactics, techniques and procedures, we had to leverage… relatively new software block for our connect system,” Watson said. “And craft overlays and information that would be displayed during our weapons activity, to help us achieve what we wanted to do.”
Global Strike Challenge more than total preparedness
The obvious end goal of a Global Strike Challenge is total preparedness, but inter-team dependability, camaraderie, morale-boosting and recognition are also components of the competition.
“This year’s theme is ‘Strikers are One … Resilient, Credible, Lethal Team,’” Fore said. “This stresses that Global Strike airmen are a team of teams, and that we’re all hopelessly dependent on one another in order to achieve strategic success.”
Tech. Sgt. Athena Keller’s unit is tight. GSC ’21 marked her fourth competition.
“We spend a lot of time together, loading together as a crew,” said Keller, a weapons load crew member with the 131st Bomb Wing, Missouri ANG. “We kind of become each other’s family. We’re a second family.”
Recognition is important, too. It boosts morale among the active duty and reserve airmen.
“Being recognized for things you do helps them know that they’re not just bypassed, that they are being recognized,” Keller said. “We see what you’re doing. We appreciate what you’re doing… whether it’s a coin or a trophy, a piece of paper that says you did a great job.”
But when the scores are finalized and awards announced, it’s the skill development and readiness that define the Global Strike Challenge.
“They have proven how resilient they are by overcoming many challenges in innovative ways – and have demonstrated credibility and lethality to themselves, their peers, their community and their adversaries,” Fore said. “America should sleep well.”
The GSC ’21 score posting event was held earlier this month at Barksdale Air Force Base.
The following AFGSC units participated in the GSC ’21:
- 2nd Bomb Wing, Barksdale AFB, Louisiana;
- 5th Bomb Wing, Minot AFB, North Dakota;
- 7th Bomb Wing, Dyess AFB, Texas;
- 28th Bomb Wing, Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota;
- 90th Missile Wing, F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming;
- 91st Missile Wing, Minot AFB, North Dakota;
- 341st Missile Wing, Malmstrom AFB, Montana;
- 377th Air Base Wing, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico; and
- 509th Bomb Wing, Whiteman AFB, Missouri.
Other units involved were:
- Air Combat Command’s 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron at Barksdale AFB;
- Air Force Reserve Command’s 307th Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB;
- North Dakota Air National Guard 219th Security Forces Squadron; and
- Missouri Air National Guard’s 131st Bomb Wing.