111th ASOS strikes win at 2019 Lightning Challenge
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD—Tactical Air Control Party operators from the Washington Air National Guard took home a top award in a recent competition of TACP Airmen from throughout the Air Force.
The team from the Washington Air National Guard’s 111th Air Support Operations Squadron won its award in the 2019 Lightning Challenge, a four day competition at Joint Base Lewis-McChord that brought together TACP Airmen for events that tested the technical skills, physical ability and mental fortitude of the participants during the week of July 29.
This year’s competition was comprised of 20 two-person teams. Only two of the teams were Air National Guard units, both hailing from the Washington Air Guard’s 194th Air Support Operations Group. A team from the 116th ASOS participated, in addition to the team from the 111th ASOS.
The 111th ASOS team, consisting of Master Sgt. Bridger Morris and Senior Airman Jonathan Alexander, both TACP specialists, won the 2019 Staff Sgt. Jacob Frazier Controller Award. The award is given to the best Joint Terminal Attack Controller team in the controller category. The events within this category included JTAC Simulator, medical evacuation scenario, utilizing portable radio and field expedient antenna, call for fire, joint fires, land navigation and enemy recognition (equipment, i.e. tanks, aircraft, etc.).
This is the first year the 111th ASOS has entered two contenders into the competition, said Lt. Col. David Stilli II, commander of the 111th ASOS. Stilli had also competed in the challenge in 1996 and 2000.
As a former competitor and now leader of Airmen competing in the competition, Stilli appreciates the relationships and memories that come from events like the challenge.
“It’s something that you never forget,” said Stilli. “You build relationships that last a lifetime.”
One of the hurdles of fielding a team is working with the lives and schedules of members who are drill status Guardsmen. The Airmen representing the 111th ASOS raised their hands when the opportunity came, said Stilli.
“It’s an honor to have these guys step up and volunteer to compete with the best of the best in the TACP world,” said Stilli.
When not in military uniform, Alexander works as a police officer in Issaquah, Washington and worked a late night shift the night before the competition, but he was ready to perform as a TACP at 7:00 a.m., said Chief Master Sgt. William Feger, the 111th ASOS Squadron Superintendent.
“When we talk about a Guardsman being able to jump from civilian job over to this, it’s another challenge for those guys,” said Feger. “For them to step up and do that is pretty awesome.”
Alexander said his favorite thing about the event was working with operators from other units and the great attitudes they brought. Morale stayed high even when things got difficult, and nobody wanted to quit, said Alexander.
“It was awesome…to be a part of something in this community,” said Alexander. “I’m really happy I got to compete in it.”
The challenge helped show TACPs where there is room for improvement and what work has to be done to stay competent while continuing work in their career field, said Alexander.
That sentiment was echoed by a member of the 116th team. “Overall the competition has been really good,” said Staff Sgt. Anthony Evelyn-Watts, a TACP with the 116th ASOS. “It’s shown me where I need to improve as a controller and then probably where to go and what to focus on in the coming years.”