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Guardian Challenge competition kicks off with spirit

by Ed White
Air Force Space Command Public Affairs

5/9/2008 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFPN) -- Guardian Challenge, the only space warfighter competition in the Air Force, is 17 years old and going strong. The competition pits the best-of-the-best space warfighters against each other, determining the top space wing teams in the Air Force.

About 500 participants, supporters and local dignitaries came together May 8 amidst ear-thundering hooting and hollering at the base theater here for the kickoff ceremony for this year's competition.

While there was an immense amount of spirit displayed by all the represented wings in Air Force Space Command, the competition underlies the very serious mission that America's space warriors perform every single day, keeping America, warfighters, allies and friends safe in an unsafe world. Guardian Challenge is the showcase of the skills that assure mission accomplishment for AFSPC.

"You all can be very, very proud of the people you are representing here today," said Gen. C. Robert Kehler, AFSPC commander.

Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera, dubbed during the ceremony as "America's Mayor of Space," said of the military community in Colorado Springs, "We are all in this together. We are all part of one team, fighting the global war on terror."

As the measured tread of the color guard faded from the stage, the lighthearted side of the festivities began. "Squish the fish" roared from one wing while another chanted "Best in Space, in your face." There was a mascot in shark regalia, an eagle, a knight, a man-bear, Teddy Roosevelt and a World War II bombardier, clearly discernable by the "bomb" he carried on his shoulder.

After Brig. Gen. Ted Kresge, director of AFSPC's air, space and nuclear operations, remarked on some highjinx during the Crud Tournament, the youngest team members were recognized in a continuing tradition, and Maj. Gen. Thomas F. Deppe, AFSPC vice commander, was haled as the oldest participant in the event.

The ceremony's serious side came when the trophies from the previous competition were returned by their winners to the possession of General Deppe. One by one, the 2006 winners, represented by the wing commanders, surrendered the trophies with the statement that they were returning the trophy only "temporarily."

This year, however, there was one that required no relinquishment. A new award has been added to honor the early contributions of retired Brig. Gen. William G. King, Jr. The large goblet-shaped trophy recognizes the command's best systems wing.

The ceremony ended as the participants broke up to take part in other Guardian Challenge activities. General Kehler's words from his introduction echoed the underlying reason for the competition.

"I will remind you that Air Force Space Command, as we stand here today, is deployed around the world, around the clock, doing the world's most difficult space and missile mission, and doing it with great skill, great courage, and great accomplishment," he said.

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