27 Airmen compete to be named 2020 USAFE Defender Challenge champs


U.S. Security Forces Airmen within the United States Air Forces in Europe Command move to the next station on day one of the USAFE Defender Challenge at Ramstein Air Base, March 4. The team of three alternated between jogging and walking in order to save time on their final score. Photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew J. Alvarado

Twenty-seven security forces members within the U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa competed in the 2020 USAFE Defender Challenge at Ramstein Air Base, March 4-6.

The three-day challenge tested nine, three-man teams of Defenders from various units to crown the best overall team. They were put through a series of events consisting of strength, knowledge and precision skills.

“If we want to consider ourselves as some of the elite, then we need to train like the elites do,” said Staff Sgt. Bryce Neff, 496th Air Base Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of plans and programs.


Throughout the competition, the Defenders had to run five miles in full “battle rattle” wearing a 40-pound ruck sack, complete a series of high intensity exercises before firing 56 rounds from various distances up to 300 meters and completely exhaust themselves in a combat agility test racing against the clock for the fastest time.

U.S. Security Forces Airmen within the United States Air Forces in Europe Command are evaluated as they seize contraband as part of a simulated detainment during the USAFE Defender Challenge at Ramstein Air Base, March 4. Confronting and detaining suspicious individuals was just one part of the multi-event challenge. Photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew J. Alvarado

“We put these individuals through challenges to make them develop as a leader,” said Master Sgt. David Day, Headquarters USAFE weapons system security manager. “When they go back to their units, they are able to instill that Warrior Ethos into their Airmen while also influencing the leaders above them in the chain of command.”

The challenges were based on security forces basic training guidelines, specifically testing the Defender’s abilities to execute tactics involved in tasks they may face daily.

“This is a good measurement to see where these fine Defenders are at,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jason Garo, 422nd Security Forces Squadron operations superintendent. “As the USAFE team captain, I will choose 10 of the best Defenders from this competition to conduct tryouts for the final team that will compete at the worldwide competition.”

U.S. Security Forces Airmen within the United States Air Forces in Europe Command relay information by using a status report during the USAFE Defender Challenge at Ramstein Air Base, March 4. Part of the scenario was communicating the conditions of the simulated subject to the evaluator. Photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew J. Alvarado

The worldwide security forces competition tests the top 14 security forces five-man teams from the U.S. Air Force major commands, Great Britain and Germany. As of now, scheduling of this year’s competition is to be determined.

Their skills will be evaluated in realistic weapons scenarios, simulated dismounted operations and grueling combat endurance.

“The most important trait is attitude,” Garo said. “Attitude is the thing that wins, it doesn’t matter how big or strong you are; if you have the will to go until you can no longer go, that to me is the number one trait to have.”

The 435th SFS team took home the bragging rights as the best 2020 USAFE Defender team. The winning team consisted of Tech. Sgt. Ross Caldwell, Staff Sgt. Cordell Linscomb, and Senior Airman Kyle Alvino.