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1st annual Top Hawk competition builds unity

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- VAFB personnel recently participated in the first Top Hawk competition here, Feb. 6 through 14.

In lieu of Air Force Space Command's Guardian Challenge, the Top Hawk competition puts 30th Operations Group launch teams against each other to determine the best of the best.

"The competition consisted of an 80 question test that all the operators took," said Lt. Col. John Patrick, 30th OG chief of standardization and evaluation. "To include 20 questions out of the career development course, this enabled the officers to see some of what the enlisted side of the house goes through for testing. The next part of the competition was a crew 'ride,' an evaluation based on simulated scenarios using their real-world equipment. During the scenarios, crew coordination was paramount as teams dealt with multiple time sensitive range anomalies and status that affected a clear to launch or not clear to launch decision."

Various positions involved in launch operations comprised the teams being evaluated, to include the Range Operations Commander, Range Control Officer, Aerospace Clearance Officer, Launch Weather Officer, Balloon Editor, Toxic Forecaster, and Range Weather Forecaster Airmen.

"I have a great number of weather operators who are just as much involved as anyone else," said Lt. Col. Dieter Haney, 30th Operations Support Squadron commander.

Multiple Airmen from various organizations came together and worked harmoniously to make the first ever Top Hawk competition a successful one.

"I want to emphasize it was truly a joint team effort to make happen," said Patrick. "In addition to the OG, I want to thank the OSS, INDYNE and the 2nd Range Operations Squadron for really making it all come together."

Similar to fighter wing's extensive load competitions, the primary purpose is to build morale and overcome obstacles as a team. In addition to enhancing esprit de corps, statistics from the final results are implemented into future scenarios.

"We're not only looking at the negatives, but we're looking at their strengths as well," said Patrick. "We collect the data afterward and feed the deficiencies and strengths into current training as well as the next competitions. That way it all serves a practical purpose."

For top OG leadership, this competition creates a positive and competitive atmosphere benefiting all involved.

"I am very proud of the way the Operations Group pulled together and harnessed the power of the Top Hawk competition," said Col. Marc Del Rosario, 30th OG commander. "This opportunity offered our Airmen the chance to train and hone command and control skills to perform as one, tight-knit team. After our celebrating is over, we will compile the lessons learned from the competition and improve the operational readiness of our young crew force to conduct current and future operations."

The results of the Best Space-lift Range Team in the 30th Space Wing are as follows;

Range Operations Commander - 1st Lt. Katherine Williams.

Range Control Officer - 2nd Lt. Casey Horgan.

Range Control Officer - 2nd Lt. Kaitlyn Zimmitti.

Aerospace Control Officer - Staff Sgt. Sarah Byelick.

Launch Weather Officer - Mr. Tyler Brock.

Ballon Editor - Capt. Emili Weis.

Toxic Forecaster - Tech. Sgt. Jonathan White.

Range Weather Forecaster - Staff Sgt. Austin Thome.