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Vandenberg steps up to the ‘Challenge’

Guardian Challenge 2008

Guardian Challenge 2008

VANDENBERG AFB, Calif. -- As the moon and stars move silently over Vandenberg, a Delta II rocket stands ready to launch, a rogue train enters the base, security forces find an unconscious Airman in the woods and an intruder enters the control center. 

Is it another action-packed Tom Clancy novel? No, it's just a few possible scenarios in the upcoming Guardian Challenge here, which will take place in March and April. 

A test of space and missile warfighting skills, Guardian Challenge highlights the best of the best in spacelift, missile operations and space operations. The winners will take home their trophy - Schriever, Blanchard and Aldridge, respectively - and bragging rights for the next two years. 

But more than that, the competition will sharpen the skills and strengthen the camaraderie of the Air Force's space and missile warriors. 

"Through this competition, we highlight our people, increase esprit de corps and show the world that we're the best at what we do," said Maj. Mark DelVecchio, 30th Operations Support Squadron operations officer. "We're demonstrating to the command, to the nation, to the world that we're serious, we train hard and we're working hard to keep our folks at the top of their game." 

What's different about the 51-year-old competition this year is that all evaluations will be done at each wing's home station. 

"Everyone used to come out to Vandenberg for the competition," Major DelVecchio said. "Now all competition is done at the local unit." 

The local units at Vandenberg include the 30th Operations Group, 30th Launch Group and 30th Security Forces Squadron. They are pitted against the 2006 Guardian Challenge champions, the 45th Space Wing out of Patrick AFB, Fla. 

"Unfortunately for us, the 45th won that last time, so we're trying to re-take the Schriever Trophy and bring it back to Vandenberg," Major DelVecchio said. 

The operations and launch group will compete against the 45th OG and LCG and the 30th SFS will compete against security forces members from throughout the 14th Air Force. Each team receives scores on its performance and then has its points added to the total for the wing. These points will not only bring them closer to the Schriever Trophy, but they will also count toward winning functional awards. 

"The ops group will be going for Best Range Ops Crew, the launch group for the Best Launch Crew and security forces for the Best Security Forces in the 14th Air Force," Major DelVecchio said. "We will win the Schriever, but we will also work hard to win those individual awards." 

The 30th OG is the first team to compete, with their evaluation taking place March 24-26. The 30th LCG are up next April 9-11. Finally, the 30th SFS competes in mid-April. 

When the evaluations are completed, all competing wings will converge at Peterson AFB, Colo., on May 7-10 for the score posting ceremony. And, of course, Team V's competitors want to see their crew on top. 

"Guardian Challenge is a huge competition," Major DelVecchio said. "We want to be the best of the best at what we do." 

(Editor's note: This is the first of a four-part series on Guardian Challenge.)