93 AGOW TACPs compete in Dragon Challenge 2023

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Christian Little
  • 93 AGOW

Thirty-three Tactical Air Control Party (TACP), intelligence and special warfare mission support personnel from the 18th Air Support Operations Group competed in the 2023 Dragon Challenge from June 12-14, 2023, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Dragon Challenge is an annual competition for the four squadrons that fall under the 18th Air Support Operations Group (ASOG) within the 93d Air Ground Operations Wing (AGOW) and is designed to test TACP skill sets, demonstrate proficiency levels, evaluate emerging TACP concepts of operations and find the winning TACP team who will move forward onto Lightning Challenge later this year for the opportunity to prove they have what it takes to be the best in the world.

The 3-day challenge not only consisted of graded physical fitness events, a job knowledge exam and shooting challenges, but pitted teams against each other during a full-mission profile; requiring participants to infiltrate enemy key terrain, gather intelligence and targeting data, and exfiltrate unseen.

“To be lethal, you need to constantly practice the things you’re learning,” said Capt. Tyler Johnson, 19th Air Support Operations Squadron operations flight commander. “A lot of the skills that TACP operators are trained to are perishable skills, so if you’re not constantly honing those skill sets, you’ll lose them. In order to have the advantage in the next fight, in the next major combat operation that we’re involved in, it’s important that TACPs maintain those skills.”

The competitive aspect of Dragon challenge provided a direct comparison of proficiency levels between units while also pinpointing where they need further development.

“We’re big believers of competition within the 18th ASOG,” said Col. Richard Kovsky, 18th Air Support Operations Group commander. “I think competition pushes people to their best, drives them outside their comfort zone. They get to a point where they don't realize how well they can do…It’s really good to take it to the next level.”

Although Dragon Challenge is a team event, it pushed individual participants to their limits and exposed opportunities of growth.

“Competition breeds excellence and it identifies weak points and areas of improvement,” Johnson said. “TACPs need to be big on feedback and understanding what’s next for them and how they can improve themselves moving forward. TACPs can take the feedback they get from the Dragon Challenge and get on the same page as the other squadrons.”

Leadership from within the 93 AGOW, including Col. Timothy Hood, 93 AGOW commander, and Col. Richard Kovsky, 18 ASOG commander, attended the challenge and saw firsthand the amount of hard work and effort the TACPs put into the challenge.

“I get chills, I honestly do,” Kovsky said. “These guys are taking it really seriously, you look around and you see them, you know, a little bit nervous, and then they’re out there, they’re on showcase…everybody’s watching.”

The 19th ASOS team rose to victory in this Dragon Challenge and will continue on to compete in the upcoming Lightning Challenge where TACP teams from across the world will compete to prove they are the most combat-capable and proficient team in the whole Air Force.

“We have an awesome group of guys, they really worked hard leading up to the challenge,” said 1st Lt. Skyler Lloyd, 19th ASOS team leader. “They just had great attitudes throughout the whole thing, from training to being out in the field. I was very happy we had the guys we had, they really are experts in their field.”