Guardian Challenge 2010 - Day 4 of Security Forces Competition
By Hien Q. Vu, Esq., SMC/PA
/ Published May 20, 2010
U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo. -- On May 19, the last day of the security forces competition at Guardian Challenge 2010, the Space and Missile Systems Center's 61st Security Forces Squadron team's performance could serve as a script for a sports movie.
A serious injury forced a member from the original team to withdraw late into training. A twisted ankle on day two of the competition sidelined another member. A groin injury occurred during the previous day's practice run. On the day of the competition, the team coach had to leave for Los Angeles because of an emergency.
The remaining members of the team were Department of Defense Officer Steven Haymes, Tech. Sgts. Rochanapan Silpe and Leslee Williams, and Staff Sgt. Alex Andriyanov. DoD Officer Yvette Perez, twisted ankle and all, stepped up as the team coach for 2nd Lt. Alea Nadeem, who otherwise wouldn't have left her team if not for the doctor's order.
So there they were, facing the 17 obstacles on a deceptively challenging course that they must overcome together as a team. There was no other option, no more substitute, and no turning back.
What transpired within the next half hour was a showing of heart, grits, mind over body, teamwork and perseverance. And a liberal dose of encouragement from a small contingent of SMC personnel.
"I am extremely proud of our security forces team," said Col. Anita Latin, 61st Air Base Wing commander, who was one of the most vocal supporters on hand. "They gutted it through a lot of adversity. We were down to exactly four competitors. If one of them had to quit for any reason during the course, the team would be disqualified."
Quit they didn't. Twice Officer Haymes slipped off the ground and fell into the water over the rope swing obstacle. But he did not give up. On his third try, he held onto the ground and made it through.
Then came the pivotal point of the course that defined this team's character. The Wall, about 6 feet high, wasn't that imposing if a competitor executes the right speed, a high jump and grab, and a swift climb over, as Sergeants Williams, Silpe and Andriyanov demonstrated.
"I actually almost didn't make it over the wall," said Sergeant Silpe. "It was a really challenging obstacle for me because exhaustion set in at that point. You know what lifted me over? Hearing the cheers from our team! As tough as it was, hearing Colonel Latin call out my name and urge me on was that boost that I needed."
Officer Haymes, dead tired with an aggravated groin injury, could barely walk at the 7000-foot altitude. It appeared a daunting feat to execute the proper techniques. If he couldn't make it on his first try, what was left of his energy would not allow him to overcome this obstacle.
Ingenuity and teamwork proved to be this team's hallmark. Officer Perez, the substitute team coach, waved Sergeant Andriyanov over. She asked him to help Officer Haymes by kneeling down and helping him step up to the wall. Officer Haymes was elevated enough to pull himself over the wall. The judges' decision? The maneuver was allowed.
"I did what I needed to do to help the team finish this drill as one unit," said Sergeant Andriyanov.
The upside-down rope climb over water, the next-to-last obstacle, could have derailed the team. The finish line was so close yet so far away looking across the 20-foot-long pond. One by one, they made it over. Officer Haymes was the last one to cross. The climb was long and laborious, but he was able to made it to the platform on the other. He touched it with his lower back and could almost pull himself into a sitting position before he slipped and fell into the water. The judges credited him with completing the obstacle.
The team finished the course under 30 minutes. "Our team may not be the fastest, but to me it is the best," said Colonel Latin. "How can it not? None of them is on active duty. We have two reservists on orders and two DoD police who come together and function as a cohesive team. They help one another out. They struggle and strive as one. They rise to the challenge and finish as a team. Throughout it all, they maintain such a positive attitude. It shows heart - a lot of heart."