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Readiness Challenge nears full return

  • Published
  • By Debbie Aragon
  • AFIMSC Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- The Air Force Civil Engineer Readiness Challenge will move one step closer to its full return following an initial operational capability (IOC) competition April 18-22, at the Silver Flag Training Site at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.

The challenge is hosted by the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, a primary subordinate unit of the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, and is a capstone event that demonstrates Department of the Air Force civil engineers are ready to conduct full-spectrum, integrated base response and recovery operations, said Royal Canadian Air Force Maj. Craig Bradshaw, chief of contingency training and event lead at AFCEC.

“Readiness Challenge is the premiere readiness event for Air Force Civil Engineers and dates back to the late 1980s,” said Brig. Gen. William Kale, Air Force Director of Civil Engineers. “Now, after a pause in the early 2000s, it’s back to reinvigorate the esprit de corps and warrior ethos of civil engineers by bringing together Airmen and Guardians from across the enterprise and testing their wartime capabilities.

“As the precision and speed of U.S. adversaries increase, our Air and Space Forces face an increased pacing challenge,” the general said. “Readiness Challenge tests the agility and adaptability required to operate in contested, degraded and operationally limited environments, and strengthens our posture for the future fight.”

Unlike previous Readiness Challenge competitions, organizers are planning a competition that will be a true test of readiness with teams not knowing exactly what they will be asked to execute until they arrive on site.

Previously, teams trained for specific events and became “professional Readiness Challenge teams” rather than a full mission-ready force, Bradshaw said. 

“Competitions like Readiness Challenge must not be viewed as a singular event or preparation just in time for an operation … they emphasize that readiness is a culture that must be fostered and maintained at all times to ensure we can respond as cohesive units to known and emerging threats,” Kale said. 

More than 300 competitors from eight teams representing Air Force Reserve Command, the Air National Guard, Air Combat Command, Air Force Special Operations Command, Air Mobility Command, Pacific Air Forces, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and U.S. Space Force will compete in this year’s competition.

“As technology progresses, speed and agility are likely to become more of a factor in defeating an opponent,” said Capt. Adrien Aquino, team chief for the AFSOC Readiness Challenge team from Hurlburt Field, Florida. “I would argue that an Air Force that can more rapidly and effectively establish, repair and relocate an air base is an Air Force that is more likely to survive attacks and generate aircraft for positive effect.

“Our team is excited to test their abilities against other teams and I think we have a little something to prove since we have special in our unit name,” added Aquino, explosive ordnance disposal flight commander with the 1st Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron.

CE forces have proven their adaptability on countless operations but we cannot rest on the things we’re done in the past, Bradshaw said. 

“Threats evolve, technology evolves and our readiness and the programs that create ready engineers must evolve as well. Readiness Challenge provides a litmus test for the enterprise’s readiness to tackle new challenges and changes in the global security environment,” he added.

As with Readiness Challenge events themselves, bringing the competition back to the Air Force enterprise requires a team effort. 

Leading up to this month’s IOC, AFCEC, with support from AFIMSC, held a small three-team beta event in the fall of 2019. 

While Headquarters Air Force Civil Engineering and AFCEC are focused on the intent, purpose and execution of Readiness Challenge, AFIMSC’s directorates are supporting with resource planning, allocation and execution.

“Safe to say, there are many moving pieces for supplies and travel for competitors that we needed to accomplish,” said John Enyeart, AFIMSC enterprise manager of combat support. “We worked this for the beta test and now again as it becomes an event across most major commands.”  

Following this month’s IOC, organizers will put the finishing touches on the plan to expand the challenge to more teams during a full operating capability (FOC) event within two years.

(Editor's Note: With the Air Force Civil Engineer Center planning and facilitating the competition, in close partnership with the 823rd RED HORSE Squadron Detachment 1, "this initiative to revive Readiness Challenge as a marque event in the combat support community wouldn't have been possible without the hard work, dedication and commitment of Tyndall’s 823rd RED HORSE Squadron Det. 1 who will be executing the competition April 18-22.)