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Top Hawk competition tests teamwork, boosts readiness

Senior Airman Austin Johnson, 2nd Range Operations Squadron aerospace clearance officer, 1st Lt. Andrew Marin, 2 ROPS range control officer, 1st Lt. Kyle Schroeder, 2 ROPS range control officer, and 1st Lt. Christopher Huynh, 2 ROPS range operations commander, are recognized by Col. Jennifer Grant, 30th Operations Group commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Thomas O’Malley, 30th OG superintendent, Aug. 19, 2016, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Created to mirror Air Force Space Command’s Guardian Challenge, Top Hawk pits 30th OG launch teams against each other in a series of challenges designed to test job knowledge and performance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Robert J. Volio/Released)

Senior Airman Austin Johnson, 2nd Range Operations Squadron aerospace clearance officer, 1st Lt. Andrew Marin, 2 ROPS range control officer, 1st Lt. Kyle Schroeder, 2 ROPS range control officer, and 1st Lt. Christopher Huynh, 2 ROPS range operations commander, are recognized by Col. Jennifer Grant, 30th Operations Group commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Thomas O’Malley, 30th OG superintendent, Aug. 19, 2016, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Created to mirror Air Force Space Command’s Guardian Challenge, Top Hawk pits 30th OG launch teams against each other in a series of challenges designed to test job knowledge and performance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Robert J. Volio/Released)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

Team V personnel recently participated in the Top Hawk competition, here, July 27 through Aug. 16.

Created to mirror Air Force Space Command’s Guardian Challenge, Top Hawk pits 30th Operations Group launch teams against each other in a series of challenges designed to test job knowledge and performance.

“The Top Hawk competition is designed to reinforce teamwork and collaboration between launch operators who are divided up into crews,” said 1st Lt. Timothy Applegate, 30th OG standardization and policy chief. “The event starts off with a written examination, followed by a challenging crew performance evaluation. The competition ends with an outbrief highlighting top performers along with award presentations from the 30th Operations Group and 30th Space Wing commanders.”

In order to critique the skills of each team and individual, participants are put through a multitude of mentally stimulating scenarios.

“Teams prepare by reviewing the materials available to them,” said Capt. Benjamin Skee, 30th OG standardization and evaluation deputy chief. “This documentation is based off of past 30th SW launches and includes, but is not limited to, launch procedures, mission plans, and operations manuals. The performance portion of the competition inserts a challenging flow of inputs for the crews. The point of the challenge is to overload the contenders in order to test prioritization, performance under stress, and, above all, their ability to work as a team.”

Despite the rigorous trials of the competition, the Top Hawk competitors emerged unscathed.

“The participants’ performances were incredible,” said Skee. “They all showed a positive level of expertise within their designated crew positions.”

For the launch teams, a lot of coordination and preparation was required to succeed in the event.

“Teamwork is imperative,” said Applegate. “Operations crews can’t function with just one person. It has been noticed that teams with the best synergy earn the highest scores.”

Although winners were eventually recognized, the primary objective of the Top Hawk competition was to ensure proficient job performance and mission readiness – a goal the event accomplished.

“The importance of the competition is to improve proficiency among the crews,” said Applegate. “All of the study and preparation, prior to the performance evaluation, helps crews garner an improved understanding of the range and its constraints. This knowledge forms the backbone used to flawlessly execute today’s launch mission.”

The results of the 2016 Top Hawk competition are as follows:

Top Aerospace Clearance Officer: Tech. Sgt. Jeremiah Tillery

Top Range Control Officer Crew: 1st Lt. John Delong, 1st Lt. Caribbean Wawrzyniak

Top Range Operations Commander: 1st Lt. Ryan Yeager

Best Written Evaluation Score: 1st Lt. Ryan Yeager

Top Crew: CREW 2 – 1st Lt. Christopher Huynh, 1st Lt. Andrew Marin, 1st Lt. Kyle Schroeder, SrA Austin Johnson