PATRICK SPACE FORCE BASE, Fla. – Military members are constantly focused on full-spectrum readiness. They must be able to respond at a moment’s notice to any situation including humanitarian assistance operations, international rescue missions, counterterrorism, and combat.
Air Force civil engineers are responsible for maintaining bases in the United States and overseas as ‘power projection platforms.’ They are responsible for ensuring these bases are capable of meeting mission demands, which includes restoring a base to full functionality after a natural disaster or an attack.
U.S. Airmen in the civil engineer career field serve in a variety of specialties including firefighters, emergency management, infrastructure support and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD).
“Air Force engineers are capable and ready to defend our mission to allow the projection of airpower, and we can do those things in any environment, in any location at any time,” said Maj. Khary Davis, Air Force Civil Engineer Center expeditionary engineering division chief. “We fight from our bases. We must ensure they are capable at all times.”
Those capabilities will be put to the test at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, from April 18-22 during Readiness Challenge VIII, the first CE readiness challenge in 22 years. The challenge will assess the abilities of CE Airmen to perform contingency and wartime tasks.
More than 300 Airmen from every CE specialty will compete in the challenge, according to the AFCEC. Patrick Space Force Base, Florida, is sending a team of 26 Airmen to compete, along with three Airmen from Peterson SFB, Colorado, and seven Airmen from Vandenberg SFB, California. Those Airmen will form the U.S. Space Force team, which will be the first to compete in the event.
U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Kelby Bailey, 45th Civil Engineer Squadron officer in charge of program development, will be the Space Force team leader during the competition. He said the challenge will be vital to enhancing overall readiness.
“We will be tested on our ability to deploy and our abilities to efficiently establish bare-base-bed-down activities,” Bailey said.
These actives include setting up shelters and important infrastructure such as potable water and dining facilities, Bailey said. They also include capabilities such as emergency response, airfield damage recovery and EOD.
“We don’t know exactly what is going to happen at the challenge, but every section we have will be tested,” Bailey said. “We will be tested on our ability to come together and effectively accomplish objectives. Readiness is very important, especially for CE. Without capable, highly proficient CE professionals, military leaders wouldn’t have the ability to set up contingency bases overseas.”
Eight teams with 312 competitors will participate in the readiness challenge including members of the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard, said Royal Canadian air force Maj. Craig Bradshaw, chief of contingency training.
Bradshaw is one of the planners for the event, He said one of the goals of the challenge is to cultivate a readiness ‘growth mindset’ and stress the importance of training so forces are ready to respond to anything.
“Readiness is a culture that needs to be fostered and maintained at all times,” Bradshaw said. “This ensures we can respond to known and emerging threats.”
During the competition, each team will be evaluated on a myriad of tasks that span the entire CE career field, Bradshaw said.
“Readiness Challenge provides an opportunity to test our wartime and contingency skills in a competitive environment to promote the culture of readiness within the CE community and reinforce our warrior ethos,” he added.