Senior Airman Andrew Tutone
KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Senior Airman Andrew Tutone, 8th Security Forces Squadron pass and identification specialist, competed in the first Air Force Defender Challenge in 14 years, taking home the 2018 Air Force Defender Challenge Champions title with his United States Pacific Air Forces team Sept. 10 to 13, 2018, at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas.
Fourteen security forces teams from U.S. Air Force major commands, Great Britain, and Germany tested their mental strength, physical strength and skills in simulated dismounted operations, realistic weapons scenarios and combat endurance events for the challenge.
Tutone was part of a four-person team from Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, which competed in a PACAF Airmen Comprehensive Skills Assessment in June of this year. Though the team did not win the competition, Tutone was selected by PACAF to compete and represent his MAJCOM in the worldwide Air Force Defender Challenge in September.
“For the regional challenge, I didn’t even know until the day before,” Tutone said. “I figured competing for a week in Guam would be fun, but was excited to learn participating would result in selection for another competition.”
In August, three weeks prior to the event, Tutone and five other participants selected for the 2018 PACAF Defender Challenge team met for the first time at Anderson Air Base, Guam, to begin training.
“The team was able to communicate on a daily basis (before training in Guam), and sent weekly updated physical training standards to prepare for the challenge,” said 2nd Lt. Chelsey Hibsch, 374th Security Forces Squadron S4 logistics and supply officer in charge. “This assisted the team lead in identifying physical strengths and weaknesses that needed to be capitalized on at training.”
Competitors did not know exactly what to expect from the first Defenders Challenge in a long time, so they trained on a wide variety of scenarios they could have run into during the competition, Tutone said.
Training consisted of tactical combat casualty care, counter-improvised explosives device detection, land navigation, urban operations, live fire, and range estimation, which helped prepare the PACAF team for the three grueling days spent in austere weather.
“I think the dismounted operations challenge on the first day of the 2018 Air Force Defenders Challenge was the most memorable part of the entire challenge to me,” Tutone said. “It was raining; we were hiking through inches of mud and out in the field for hours. It was really challenging, but the realistic, hands-on, in-depth training we received made me feel prepared for the challenge.”
Any day in security forces could be the day an individual is responding to stressful situations in which they would have to step up as a leader, and this training prepared participants for any situation, Hibsch said.
The Defenders Challenge, which has been on a 14-year hiatus, traces its lineage back more than 37 years when Headquarters Air Force Office of Security Police first held the worldwide Defender's competition.
“I’m glad they brought the competition back,” Hibsch said. “The spirit of comradery was incredible, and the chance to train and compete with members stationed all over the world was a once in a lifetime experience.”
Through the mentally and physically taxing events, PACAF placed in two out of the three main events during the challenge, earning them the first place title of the 2018 Defender Challenge Champions.
“Great Britain has held the trophy since winning it at the last Defender Challenge in 2004,” Tutone said. “It’s a great feeling knowing PACAF will have the trophy for the next two years.”
Tutone will move to his next duty station, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, in 2019, where he hopes to have the opportunity to participate in similar challenges again.
“If given the opportunity, I’d like to do this again for the experience,” Tutone said. “Our team had their strengths and weaknesses, but through training and hard work we were able to identify them and bring each other up as we came together as a team. It’s an experience I won’t forget.”
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Andrew Tutone, 8th Security Forces Squadron pass and identification specialist, poses with 2018 Air Force Defender Challenge medals at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Dec. 20, 2018. Tutone competed in the first Air Force Defender Challenge in 14 years, taking home the 2018 Air Force Defender Challenge Champions title with his U.S. Pacific Air Forces team Sept. 10 to 13, 2018, at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Savannah L. Waters)