AFMC Command News

Defenders to hone skills at combat readiness events 

  • Published
  • By Debbie Aragon
  • AFIMSC Public Affairs

VIDEO | 01:03 | Air Force Defender Challenge 2023 Teaser
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – The security forces career field is set to evaluate air base ground defense capabilities delivered to the Department of the Air Force, and joint and coalition mission partners around the globe during two major events at Fort Bliss, Texas, Oct. 23-27. 

“The fight of yesterday looks different than what is needed for the fight of tomorrow,” said Air Force Director of Security Forces Brig. Gen. Thomas Sherman. “Strategic competition is our primary national security challenge. Events like Defender Challenge and Defender Flag are paramount to our career field’s success.” 

Both events are hosted by the security forces career field. The Air Force Security Forces Center, a primary unit of the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, is leading the planning, programming and execution, with support from headquarters Air Force security forces. Major commands and security forces training units are also supporting the events.  

Defender Challenge 
The legacy biennial Defender Challenge is returning for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. The competition tests the physical endurance and core operational skills between MAJCOM teams to crown winning teams and individual award winners.  

“Teams will compete in events that include tactics, weapons proficiency and physical endurance for top honors,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Jackson, event lead and chief of AFSFC’s Security Forces Training Support Division.

“We expect the energy at Defender Challenge to be infectious with every Defender performing at their absolute best,” Sherman said. “Ultimately, competition makes us better, competition brings us together and competition fosters warfighting trust amongst all members of the team.” 

Defender Flag 
Defender Flag is a new, total force field exercise. It will provide a realistic assessment and validation of air base ground defense tactics, techniques and procedures during intense, realistic scenarios. The event also tests and evaluates new concepts, TTPs and equipment, and identifies gaps in TTPs while informing career field training curriculum.  

The security forces weapons and tactics community conceived the idea after identifying a need for an event uniquely focused on the application of base defense.  

“This is our inaugural Defender Flag and we’re incredibly proud of the work that’s going into taking this from dream to reality, with many more to come,” Sherman said. 

“We expect more than 180 Defenders from every MAJCOM to participate in this exercise with support agencies from around the Air Force, AFIMSC and Ft. Bliss … it’s on track to be the largest combined exercise in security forces history,” Jackson added.

Defender Flag can help the career field to assess Defender skillsets in challenging environments and test innovative tactics to solve difficult problems, the general said, with lessons applied across the force.

“It is important to hold Defender Flag now because this is an important evolutionary period,” Sherman added. “We’re evaluating how the career field can align itself to the base defense mindset in order to meet tomorrow’s threat.” 

Unlike Defender Challenge where team members are selected as the best of the best by each MAJCOM and have time to practice and gel together before facing their peers, Defender Flag participants are selected at random to give the Air Force insight into the current skills and knowledge of the Defender force.  

The exercise will include helicopter operations supported by the Air Force and Army, two airborne insertions, sling loads, TACP supported air flow and medical related exercise scenarios.

Follow these and other security forces events at and