By Airman 1st Class Katrina Heikkinen, 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 24, 2012
MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. --
Editor's Note: This is part one of a four-part series highlighting Malmstrom's 2012 Global Strike Challenge teams.
The first phase of the Global Strike Challenge is set to kick off Sept. 9 as six members of the 341st Operations Group are to compete against members from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.; F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo.; and Minot AFB, N.D., in hopes of bringing the Blanchard Trophy back home to Malmstrom AFB.
Teams from the 10th, 12th and 490th Missile Squadrons will be representing the 341st Missile Wing in Intercontinental Ballistic Missile operations.
The trainers for the ICBM operations team are 1st Lt. Ashley Wolfe, 10th MS missile combat crew commander, and 1st Lt. Daniel Hejde, 12th MS missile combat crew commander.
"As the head trainer, I will be coordinating and executing training for our competitors," Hejde said. "I, along with my assistant trainer and the alternate crew, will be writing training scripts to present to the crews during their training rides. I will also administer tests and classroom training to hone their skills."
Although Hejde had the chance to be a part of the competition last year as one of the alternate crew members, this is his first year taking full reins as the main trainer.
"I am proud and honored to have been selected as the head trainer and can only hope I serve this group and wing well," Hejde said. "Although I won't be competing, I am looking forward to the score posting in November to see how we stack up with the other missile wings, and to bring home some trophies."
Chosen to represent the 10th MS are Capt. Ryan Hepler, ICBM instructor combat crew commander, and 2nd Lt. Bryce Acres, ICBM deputy combat crew commander.
"[Our] job proficiency is of the utmost importance," Acres said. "This proficiency is maintained through constant training, evaluation and self improvement. In preparation for the challenge, I have been spending a great deal of my time studying and becoming more familiar with all the procedures that I could be required to perform during the competition."
Although Hepler looks forward to the competition itself, he is especially grateful to have the chance to compete this year.
"Global Strike Challenge, while going by several different names over the last few decades, is a tradition within the missile community almost as old as the community itself," Hepler said. "It is a great honor to be a participant in an event tied so closely to our history. Being given the opportunity to represent my home squadron this year, [the 10th Missile Squadron], is icing on the cake. The 10th was the first operational Minuteman squadron in the Air Force, and as our squadron motto states, the 'First Ace in the Hole.' This October marks the 50th anniversary of the 10th Missile Squadron and Minuteman achieving alert status, and as a student of history, the significance is not lost on me."
Chosen to represent the 12th MS are 1st Lt. Chris McCollum, missile combat crew commander, and 2nd Lt. Ronald Grimley, ICBM deputy missile combat crew commander.
For the 12th MS members, primary training for the team relies heavily on repeating timed procedures.
"Come competition time, we will be performing simulated missile combat procedures ranging from emergency procedures, such as fire isolate, to equipment faults, communication and targeting, and simulated scenarios," Grimley said. "The key to the operations portion of this competition is prioritization of all these actions and completing as many of the higher priority actions as possible in the time allotted. In order to prepare for that, we are working at least six days a week in the trainer bay and usually leave well after midnight."
Although the training put into the challenge can be exhausting, the outcome of their efforts will not go unnoticed.
"In a job that certainly lacks glamour, my leadership remains passionate about the mission and instills that passion in their subordinates," McCollum said. "Those individuals whom I have served under have held myself and my compatriots to an unflinchingly rigid set of standards and will accept nothing short of perfection. Their leadership and mentorship have given me an unmatched desire for success and excellence."
Representing the 490th MS are Capt. Brian Marlow, ICBM combat crew commander, and 2nd Lt. Stephanie Guenther, ICBM deputy combat crew commander.
Marlow's experience as a competitor and trainer brings a strong asset to this duo, as this is his third year being part of the Global Strike Challenge. He helped bring home the Neary Trophy for the Best Emergency War Orders Team in 2010, and in 2011, he was the the trainer for all ICBM teams from Malmstrom.
"Each time we compete we get better," Marlow said. "The nature of competition makes us rise to the occasion and perform better. We learn more than we ever thought we could. With that in mind, the Global Strike Challenge becomes necessary because we always need to learn how we can accomplish tasks better than the day before."
For newcomer Guenther, she was selected after less than a year online as a deputy.
"I was ecstatic to be selected to represent the Farsiders and the 341st MW in the competition," Guenther said. "I've worked hard to get to where I am today, and I plan on continuing on that path. In a job where perfection is the standard, it's necessary to take every opportunity to grow and shine, and that's what this is for me. I look forward to showing everyone what we are capable of."
The alternate competitors are Capt. Matthew Ditson, 341st Operations Support Squadron ICBM instructor combat crew commander, and 1st Lt. Katie Emmett, 490th MS ICBM deputy combat crew commander.
"This will be my third year of involvement and I feel really blessed to be a part of it," Ditson said. "The standards are upheld through monthly training simulations and monthly tests across several disciplines."
For Emmett, she will be training with other crews as well as preparing to step in if needed.
"This is a great chance to showcase the best and brightest of our command," Emmett said. "Our jobs are stressful and every member of the mission works extremely hard to get it done. These competitions are a chance to get recognition for some very deserving Airmen."