The 18th Air Support Operations Group brought back its Dragon Challenge the week of Nov. 28 to build Airman combat skillsets and camaraderie. The challenge included a physical fitness test, weapons competition, written tests, tackling the Pre-Ranger Obstacle Course, Self-Aid and Buddy Care and other tasks.
The 18th ASOG integrates with the XVIII Airborne Corps, providing combat and meteorological support. It also has units that support divisions at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Fort Stewart, Georgia and other locations.
Col. Dane Crawford, 18th ASOG commander, said that it was his idea to bring the challenge back for the first time since 2004, when the military altered its operations tempo post 9-11.
“It’s bragging rights,” Crawford said. “It also is the best way to simulate combat stress — so pitting one member of one squadron against another member of another squadron adds that psyche, that other dimension that kind of gets at you, makes you uncomfortable because you don’t want to embarrass yourself in front of your unit. Everybody wants to win and that puts a little bit added stress that you don’t get without competition.”
Airmen seemed to appreciate the challenge.
“It’s mostly mental; (you) get past fatigue. You just keep moving forward one step at a time,” said Airmen Wyatt Dickerson, 19th Air Support Operations Squadron, Clarksville, Kentucky, who competed at the obstacle course, Nov. 28.
The competition also provided leadership opportunity.
“You’re going to do the course with your guys,” said 1st Lt. Andrew Butler, one of Dickerson’s squadron and teammates. “You’re going to show them that whatever you’re going to ask of them, you’re going to do as well.”
By Nov. 29, Airmen were taking part in SABC testing in a 43rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron facility, off Surveyor Street. Per Air Force guidance, SABC increases competence with battlefield care and home station emergencies.
Under distractions such as smoke, and battle and vehicle sounds, Airmen had to implement life-saving techniques relating to diagnosing injury, practicing airway management skills, controlling internal/external bleeding, and calling for a medical evacuation, among other duties.
According to Capt. Joshua Lampman, chief of training, 18th ASOG, each of the four-person teams had to use both brain and brawn to complete the Dragon Challenge. Not all events were timed, he explained. For instance, the written test relied on brain, not brawn.
“We like to have well-rounded Airmen,” he explained.
Crawford, who plans to make the Dragon Challenge an annual event, said he told Airmen to pay attention to detail, give maximum individual effort, execute teamwork and maintain a good attitude to be successful.
Lampman said that teammates of the 14th ASOS took first place in the Dragon Challenge, earning the highest score for all events. They were Capt. Grant McIntire, Senior Airman Anthony Mastromonaco, Senior Airman Felix Castillo and Airman 1st Class Cale Ward.