AF crowns Readiness Challenge VIII winners, plans FOC event in 2023

  • Published
  • By Debbie Aragon
  • AFIMSC Public Affairs

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — Following a more than 20-year competition hiatus, the Air Force civil engineering community crowned winners of the Air Force Civil Engineer Readiness Challenge April 22, 2022. 

Surrounded by a crowd of more than 400 civil engineers — competitors, cadre and team supporters — Air Force Civil Engineer Center Commander Maj. Gen. John Allen announced the team and individual winners of this year’s eight-team, initial operational capability competition with the 934th Civil Engineer Squadron taking top honors. 
From Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, the 934th represented Air Force Reserve Command and are taking home the Brig. Gen. William T. Meredith trophy as the “Best of the Best Team.”

The 1st Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron from Hurlburt Field, Florida, representing Air Force Special Operations Command, took second place team and the 60th Civil Engineer Squadron from Travis AFB, California, third.

“I’m proud of these Air Force civil engineers,” said Allen. “What they are doing, what they did this week is so important to the very things that we’re doing in forward locations in the Pacific and all other parts of the globe … there’s a connection there and we’re going to reestablish that connection [through Readiness Challenge]. I can’t say enough about them and I’m proud to be around them.”

The challenge is the career field’s capstone event that demonstrates Department of the Air Force civil engineers are ready to conduct full-spectrum, integrated base response and recovery operations.

This year’s five-day, 20+ event challenge showcased a wide variety of core CE disciplines -- everything from rapidly replacing segments of a runway, installing a mobile aircraft arresting system and laying out emergency airfield lighting to building a guard shack from the ground up, surveying an area, firefighting and explosive ordnance disposal skills.

More than 300 competitors represented 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.

Readiness Challenge VIII, held at Tyndall’s Silver Flag Exercise Site, was hosted by AFCEC, a primary subordinate unit of the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center. 

With AFCEC’s Readiness Directorate planning and facilitating the competition, with support from AFIMSC, it was the partnership between AFCEC and the 823rd RED HORSE Squadron Detachment 1 that carried it over the finish line, said Maj. Khary Davis, AFCEC Readiness Challenge event lead. 

“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 who executed the competition,” Davis said.

When asked about the success of the first, large-scale Readiness Challenge in 22 years, Allen said, “We’ll do an after action report and see if it goes to a 9.5 but I’m going with a 10 right now.

“There will be things that we’ve learned and things that we’ll do differently but I can’t thank enough the team at RED HORSE that runs our Silver Flag site, the team in AFCEC that had such a great hand in pulling all of this together and of course the squadrons that came and competed, they were the best part in all of this,” the general said.

“We did a beta test (for Readiness Challenge) in 2018 where we had only three teams,” said Davis. “For us to expand to the eight teams was a huge lift and shows a huge capability.

“It was just a big privilege to have these teams out here and demonstrate our warrior ethos and validate our skills and abilities while also honing our skills,” the major added.

“Installations and airfields are the Air Force weapons platforms and we maintain and restore these weapons platforms so we have to be able to do that in any environment anytime, anyplace,” Davis said.

Many of the competitors previously attended different regional training sites to top off their skills, the major said, so they understood the significance of being ready at any moment but didn’t know, in advance, the wide variety of events they’d face.

“They came prepared to tackle all of the events we threw at them and loved the competition,” Davis said, with engineers cheering on their teams and “jumping in to do tasks outside of their CE specialties, showing that multi-capable skills that we need to be a ready and lethal force.”

The 934th CES demonstrated their skills across multiple CE disciplines and team events, and their ability to overcome the challenges we gave them to command and control their forces, Davis said. 

With Readiness Challenge VIII now in the history books, Davis said he’s looking forward to the hundreds of participants going back to their units and spreading the word about what the event is and getting excited for future events. 

Thoughts of many now turn to Readiness Challenge IX — a bigger, full operational capability event – which the general announced would take place in the Spring of 2023.
“There’s a lot of excitement and we’ve got 320 new Readiness Challenge disciples that are out there talking around the Air Force about how great this is,” Allen said, “and we’re looking forward to being back here in a year.” 

In addition to the Meredith trophy winners, Allen announced the following Readiness Challenge VIII team and individual awards: 

Expeditionary airfield lighting system install: 60th CES
Rapid explosive hazard mitigation: 366th CES from Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, representing Air Combat Command
Level loop for vertical construction: 673rd Civil Engineer Group from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, representing Pacific Air Forces
Aircraft live fire operations: 1st SOCES 
Airfield rapid damage repair: 934th CES
Mobile aircraft arresting system: Tie between 60th CES and 31st CES from Aviano Air Base, Italy, representing U.S. Air Forces in Europe. The tie was broken by a tug of war competition with the 60th taking the win.
Airfield spall repair: 934th CES
Reverse osmosis water purification unit operations: 1st SOCES
Joint tactical communications operations: 60th CES
Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear control center operations: 1st SOCES
Guard shack build: Air National Guard team