Airman sets sights on Defender Challenge

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Erick Requadt
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs

Seven Moody defenders trudged through a gauntlet that tested their capability, lethality and readiness.

Ultimately, only Senior Airman Jeffrey Lewis, 822d Base Defense Squadron fireteam leader, had the scores, determination and perseverance to advance to the next level for a chance to represent Air Combat Command (ACC) during the 2018 Defender Challenge, Sept. 8-14, at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas.

“Being a part of this is a self-accomplishment of a lifetime for me,” Lewis said. “It’s amazing to be the one to represent Moody at ACC. It’s a really good opportunity, and I’m very privileged to do it. It’s not a feeling you get often, and this is one of the better moments of my military career so far.”

Lewis competed against Airmen from the 820th Base Defense Group (BDG) and 23d Security Forces Squadron (SFS) to come out on top during Moody’s assessment. Back after a 14-year hiatus, the Defender Challenge is a three-phase event consisting of a weapons challenge, dismounted operation and a physical challenge relay, featuring six defenders from each Air Force major command, along with the Royal Air Force Regiment, Royal Australian air force, German air force and Royal Canadian air force.

“Being one of the biggest career fields in the Air Force, we want to showcase our talents, what we’re all about and what we can do,” said Master Sgt. Julian Taylor, 23d SFS personnel coordinator for the base assessment. “We’re elite combat warriors, and we want to show everybody in the world that defenders mean business. We want to show that we’re built tough out here, we’re trained and fit to fight, and we’re a deterrent toward any nation that might want to engage with us. I think we’ll be able to represent Moody in a great light.”

With a base-level win under their belt, the journey to Texas is just beginning for Lewis and the nine other defender hopefuls from bases throughout ACC. They will move on to continue training and competing with aspirations of being one of the six ACC finalists.

“You’ve got to stay in that mindset that you’re the best, especially when it’s a competition like this,” said Tech. Sgt. Leonard Pritchett, 23d SFS personnel coordinator for the base assessment. “But (Lewis) has been (training) for a while and he knows how to perform well under pressure. We talk about being fit to fight all the time, and you need to be ready to go at a moment’s notice at that top physical level, and he’s already there. Now, all he’s doing is improving upon an amazing physical capability. I look forward to seeing how he does. He’s not just representing the BDG, but security forces for Moody as a whole.”

Not only will the competition showcase defender skillsets but it also instills a sense of pride with the hope of the Air Force regaining the trophy from Great Britain defenders, who have had it since 2004.

“I knew the idea behind (Defender Challenge) because my dad’s also in security forces, and he’s done it before back in the day,” Lewis said. “The opportunity of trying to make it to the big leagues, to get out there in a physical aspect and go through the grit to prove to myself what I can overcome, is a pretty cool idea.

“Personally, I don’t have an ounce of quit inside my body,” Lewis added. “Once I’m set out to do something, I’m not going to quit whatsoever; that no matter how tough it is, no matter how long it is, I’m going to do it and I’m going to complete it. I’ve never quit in my life; it’s just not in me.”

With the hope of getting to prove himself in the challenges ahead, Lewis hopes to make his mark. He may have a one up on the competition when it comes to understanding its heritage, but getting one step closer to the opportunity to follow in his father’s footsteps is what’s keeping him motivated.

“I really look up to my father in every aspect of life, and being in the same career field as him has really made me try and be better,” Lewis said. “Hearing him talk about the Defender Challenge and what he’s been through, inspired me to try and make the team and show what I can do. I know I made my dad proud.” 

Looking to the Defender Challenge, Lewis explained how he hopes to finish with pride for himself and his father but that win or lose, he knows he’ll be able to gain something.

“No matter what, my dad’ll be proud of me, win or lose,” Lewis said. “If I don’t make it to Texas, because of what I’ve done already, putting myself in the position I’ve gotten to, and trying out even at the base level, he’s still proud of me, because I’m jumping on opportunities. I want to know what I’m capable of. When you jump on opportunity, you never know what it could blossom into.”