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366th Security Forces Airmen prepare for Defender Challenge 2018

The Defender Challenge tests Security Forces Airmen on vital combat skills.

Senior Airman Caleb Houser, 366th Security Forces Squadron armorer, makes sight corrections on his weapon before the next phase of firing during the Air Combat Command qualification test for the Defender Challenge 2018 June 30, 2018, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. The Defender Challenge raises morale among Security Forces Airmen by encouraging friendly competition. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman First Class Hailey Bivens)

The Defender Challenge tests Security Forces Airmen on vital combat skills.

From left to right: Senior Airman Jesse Riendeau, Staff Sgt. Megan Schneider and Senior Airman Corey Martin, 366th Security Forces Squadron combat arms instructors, discuss scores after Airmen fired their weapons as part of the Air Combat Command qualification test for the Defender Challenge 2018 June 30, 2018, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. This will be the first Defender Challenge held by the U.S. Air Force in 14 years. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman First Class Hailey Bivens)

The Defender Challenge tests Security Forces Airmen on vital combat skills.

Staff Sgt. Lawrence Griffin, 366th Security Forces Squadron vehicle control officer, fires a three-round burst as part of the Air Combat Command qualification test for the Defender Challenge 2018 June 30, 2018, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. The Defender Challenge tests Security Forces Airmen on vital combat skills. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman First Class Hailey Bivens)

The Defender Challenge tests Security Forces Airmen on vital combat skills.

366th Security Forces Squadron members begin a land navigation course as part of the Air Combat Command qualification test for the Defender Challenge 2018, June 30, 2018 at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. The Defender Challenge tests Security Forces Airmen on vital combat skills. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman First Class Hailey Bivens)

The Defender Challenge tests Security Forces Airmen on vital combat skills.

2nd Lt. Tryston Clark, 366th Security Forces Squadron, nears the end of a four mile ruck June 30, 2018, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. Clark completed the ruck as part of the Air Combat Command qualification test for the Defender Challenge 2018. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman First Class Hailey Bivens)

The Defender Challenge tests Security Forces Airmen on vital combat skills.

2nd Lt. Tryston Clark, 366th Security Forces Squadron, adjusts his helmet strap before firing his weapon during the Air Combat Command qualification test for the Defender Challenge 2018 June 30, 2018, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. This will be the first Defender Challenge held by the U.S. Air Force in 14 years. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman First Class Hailey Bivens)

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- It’s the early morning of June 30, 2018. Five Gunfighter Defenders grab their rucks and hit the road for a four-mile trek that could bring Mountain Home Air Force Base national recognition. A year’s worth of bragging rights are on the line if even just one of them becomes part of the winning team.

Since its inception, the Defender Challenge has been an event that encourages friendly competition among Security Forces Airmen. It's a once lost heritage that is now peeking around the corner and showing its face to eager Airmen once again.

The Defender Challenge 2018 will be the first Defender Challenge hosted by the U.S Air Force on a national level since 2004.

“The Defender Challenge is Security Forces’ way to test aspects of our career that are paramount to what we do. It’s that war mindset,” explained Master Sgt. Esther Werstler, 366th Security Forces Squadron Training NCO in-charge. “They're looking at those tasks that are specific to us, things that we would do in a combat scenario. It also gives those Airmen a sense of pride to carry back home station.”

Each Major Command is putting together a team of their eight best Security Forces Airmen from across all bases.

MAJCOMs determine their top eight Defenders by putting those who would like to compete through a qualification test.

Mountain Home Defenders participated in the Air Combat Command qualification test which consisted of a four-mile ruck, weapons firing, and a land navigation course. Since no two Defender Challenges are the same, Defenders must be prepared for anything. They must also be able to work cohesively with a team of people from bases other than their own at the competition.

The best of the best will be sent from each MAJCOM to Joint Base Langely-Eustis, Virginia to train for the obstacles they will face at the Defender Challenge 2018 where they will go to Camp Bullis in San Antonio for the actual competition.

Security Forces Airmen know they need to be on top of their game when it comes to physical readiness but it’s not all blood, sweat and tears. They leave every challenge knowing they accomplished a feat that few everyday men and women are physically able to overcome.

“I think a lot of people make excuses not to do it, and then they just continue as normal.” said Senior Airman Caleb Houser, 366th Security Forces Squadron armorer. “But the people who do participate and give it their all get a pretty big morale boost out of it.”

Win or lose, Mountain Home Defenders aren’t going down without a fight.

“It makes me proud to know they have it in them to push themselves to the limit,” Werstler said.

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