Hawkman gives wings to Guardian Challenge team

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --  Hawkman "has a chat" with his arch-nemisis, The Shark. Hawkman will accompany the Guardian Challenge team to the score posting May 7-10 at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ashley Reed)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Hawkman "has a chat" with his arch-nemisis, The Shark. Hawkman will accompany the Guardian Challenge team to the score posting May 7-10 at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ashley Reed)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- He has a uniform, but it's grey and blue tights.

He wears a mask, but everyone knows his name.

He's allergic to shellfish, but he's always ready for Sharks.

Who is this inspiring figure, this guiding light, this capo di tutti capi in the mascot world?

It's Hawkman of course.

The masked-figure, who has been the mascot for Vandenberg's 30th Space Wing for years, says he's just a man ... a man with wings. But to the wing's Guardian Challenge team, he is much more.

Throughout Air Force Space Command, teams from space and missile bases are competing to see who is the best of the best. Vandenberg Airmen have already been part of two competitions, the first with the 30th Operations Group, and the second with the 30th Launch Group. The 30th Security Forces Squadron will compete Sunday through Tuesday.

Although the competition has been tough, competitors here say that Hawkman has been an inspiration.

"I was so inspired by him that I got a Hawkman tattoo on my chest," said 1st Lt. Ryan Thomas, 30th Operations Group chief of current operations and Guardian Challenge competitor. "Now every time I look at my Hawkman tattoo I know that I can do anything."

Hawkman has been at almost every Guardian Challenge event, determined to keep the team in high spirits.

"That's what I'm here for," Hawkman said. "Some people tell me, 'Oh anybody can run around and flex and flap their wings.' But what I do ... it's more than that.

"Well," he added, "actually, it's pretty much just that."

Even if he is just flexing for the crowds, the winged hero is still impressive.

"It was a combination of shock and awe that I felt when I first saw Hawkman," Lieutenant Thomas said. "I guess I felt like a 16 year old girl at an N'SYNC concert. Yeah I was pretty excited."

An NCO from the 30th Launch Support Squadron said he, too, was struck by Hawkman's aura.

"Seeing Hawkman, it dawned on me that he had an enormous amount of drive and determination," said Staff Sgt. Anthoney Kilgore, a 30th Launch Support Squadron competitor. "For him to have freakishly ripped biceps and even forehead muscles, you can tell what type of work ethic and stamina he possesses. That type of dedication seeps from his pores and you can't help but adopt the same determination."

His drive for success has its roots in his childhood. Left on the doorsteps of a professional wrestling arena, Hawkman was raised by muscle-bound performers. They trained him physically and mentally, but when he reached adulthood, he found something was missing. He knew it was time to move on.

"When I first heard about the Air Force's Core Values, I knew I wanted to be part of something that put integrity first," Hawkman said. "Also, these wings make it impossible to do a double suplex."

The wrestling world's loss was Vandenberg's gain, especially during Guardian Challenge. His signature call helps push the team along when the going gets tough.

"I remember when I was feeling down and had no motivation to continue, but then Hawkman came along and pushed me that extra mile to complete the competition," Sergeant Kilgore said. "He soared down from the sky and landed next to me. He leaned over and whispered something I would never forget: 'Ka-Kaaaahhhhhh! Ka-Kaaaahhhhh!' I turned and replied, 'You're right my friend.' Hearing that Ka Kaaaahhhh in my ear I knew what I had to do. I had to win!"

Because of all he's done to help this year's Guardian Challenge team, Hawkman has been invited to accompany the team to Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., for the score posting ceremony. There he will finally meet face-to-face with his biggest rival - the Patrick Air Force Base Shark. His teammates, however, are not scared at all.

"I've said it before, and I'll say it again ... Hawks beat sharks ... it's science!" Lieutenant Thomas said.

While Hawkman is not sharing what his plan of attack will be, others are making guesses.

"With Hawkman having the best 'Ka-Kaaaahhhhh' in the world, its only fitting that he displays it at Peterson," Sergeant Kilgore said.

But his being there is for more than the Hawkman call; it's that he completes the team.

"Hawkman is like the milk to our cereal," Lieutenant Thomas said. "The cereal just isn't the same without the milk."

To see a day in the life of Hawkman, click here.