FORT BLISS, Texas --
The 7th Air Support Operations Squadron hosted the 3rd Annual Wraith Challenge at Ft. Bliss, Texas, from April 19-23.
The Wraith Challenge, previously known as the Phantom Challenge, is an annual 3rd Air Support Operations Group competition which pits the best-of-the-best from Air Force Special Warfare Tactical Air Control Party against each other in physical and mental challenges. The 9th ASOS, 10th ASOS and the 13th ASOS also participated in the competition.
“This week-long exercise tests all facets of TACP capabilities, knowledge and physical fitness,” said 1st Lt. Ben Anderson, 7th ASOS flight commander and Wraith Challenge planning officer-in-charge. “So, the Wraith Challenge can really be viewed as a test of who is the most competent team in the 3rd ASOG.”
Each squadron can send up to two teams of two individuals for this year’s challenge. The 7th, 10th and 13th ASOS entered one team each, while the 9th ASOS entered two teams.
The winners of this year’s Wraith Challenge are 1st Lt. Joshua Sams and Airman 1st Class Robert Lowry, 9th ASOS TACP contestants.
“We’ve been training hard for the past two or three months for this competition,” said Sams. “We came here to compete, and we came here to get better.”
“It’s fun to come out and see all the other units putting up guys that want to compete,” said Lowry. “Taking away from this competition, you just got to keep progressing, it doesn’t stop after this challenge; it’s what’s next.”
The winners of the 3rd Wraith Challenge will go on to represent the 3rd ASOG at the Lighting Challenge, which is the TACP worldwide challenge. They will compete against top TACP from the 4th ASOG, Wiesbaden, Germany and the 18th ASOG, Pope Field, North Carolina.
The events and challenges were designed to test the participants as much as possible.
“All the events are designed to really test their overall skill sets as Joint Terminal Attack Controllers, and as part of their overall readiness to deploy and support combat operations,” said Anderson. “We really tried to take the broad aspects and cram them into a single challenge.”
Some of the challenges that the contestants faced were a Special Warfare tier two physical training test, high frequency radio drills, a call-for-fire and close air support simulator mission, Navy qualification course of fire, day and night navigation, close combat aviation, a monster mash, and a combat lifesaver refresher course.
“I think the monster mash is my favorite event because that’s when you really see which team wants this,” said Capt. Ryan Neith, 7th ASOS liaison to first armored division. “The folks that come to this event are all highly trained and skilled, so this event isn’t so much, whether they’re highly skilled, it’s about the drive of who wants it the most.”
The monster mash is a 12-mile ruck carrying 60 pounds of dry weight, in addition to their water sources and snacks. During this ruck, at every mile the contestants either complete an academic test or receive a piece of equipment they must carry as a team to the next mile marker.
“Overall, the Wraith Challenge ended up for us bringing an opportunity to test readiness…to encourage those skills necessary for the TACP to be effective on assignments,” said Neith. “We did a great job encouraging ourselves and driving our standards even higher, and for those that are looking to join the Air Force team as well, when we say excellence, we mean, exceeding excellence.”