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Bringing it home
From left to right; 2nd Lt. Chris Dauer (a.k.a. "Grizz"), 341 MMXS, 1st Lt. Drew Woodbury, 341 OSS, Senior Airman Sam Jennings, 341 MMXS, and Airman First Class Christopher Stephens, 341 MSFS, escort the Blanchard Trophy from a C-17 onto a bus at the Great Falls International Airport Saturday. All were members of the 2006 Malmstrom Guardian Challenge Team.
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Blanchard is back where it belongs

Posted 8/25/2006   Updated 9/28/2006 Email story   Print story


by Valerie Mullett
341st Space Wing Public Affairs Office

8/25/2006 - MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- Grizz led them in. The capacity crowd clapped. Chants ensued. The wing commander entered and before a word was spoken, the room was called to attention. 

She proceeded to pin an Air Force achievement medal on each member of the 2006 Guardian Challenge team as many watched in awe. 

They were the winners. They were the best missile wing in 20th Air Force and they were being feted for their efforts. The silence in the room remained until the last sharp salute was rendered. And that's when the praises started. 

"I don't remember when there has been such a large point spread between first and second place," said Col. Scott Gilson, 341st Operations Group commander. "It's incredible what these individuals have accomplished." 

He was the first of three commanders to pay tribute to his teams' performance and personally congratulate the members and their trainers. 

"Colonel Stoss and I were in there (the missile procedures trainer) everyday, scrutinizing what was taking place with the training," he said of the missile operations pre-competition. "He is a missile expert and if these team members could endure our constant pressure, the 20th Air Force evaluators were a walk in the park."
Helicopter operations also falls under Colonel Gilson and he had nothing but accolades for that team as well. 

"The helicopter team was psyched to compete and when their chance came ... they nailed it," he said. 

The missile operations team outscored their nearest competitors by 65 points while helicopter operations had a 16 point cushion. 

Equally as full of pride, Col. William Hughes, 341st Maintenance Group commander, couldn't hold back his enthusiasm at the back-to-back Blackburn Trophy wins for maintenance excellence and for his team's role in the overall wing victory. 

"I saw the look in the eyes of our competitors - they all had the look of a winner - confident, relaxed and focused," he recalled. "Our Guardian Challenge team shrugged off all the uncertainty swirling around this year's competition and took care of business." 

The maintenance team edged their next closest opponents by 13 points. 

Next to speak was Lt. Col. Lynden Skinner, deputy commander of the 341st Security Forces Group. 

"Unlike the other teams, the security forces team was not released from duty to practice until 30 days prior to the competition," he said. "That speaks volumes about how hard they trained to become a precise, cohesive unit and ultimately win the best security forces team in 20th Air Force." 

The security forces team smoked their competition by 63 points. 

Both the operations and maintenance group teams were evaluated here at Malmstrom in May. The helicopter operations team traveled to Camp Guernsey, Wyo., also in May, for their competition. All three had to wait until the completion of the security forces competition in Colorado Springs last week before finding out how they fared.  But when the dust had settled and the last man was across the line, Malmstrom was awarded the Blanchard Trophy. 

"Team Malmstrom warriors charged every challenge head on and set the standard for performance and teamwork," said Col. Sandy Finan, 341st Space Wing commander. "Each and every person should share pride in this impresive accomplishment ... we are TEAM MALMSTROM and we will continue to be this Nation's most powerful asset." 

Just as he led them into competition and all venues in between, Grizz roused one last chant in their honor before the staunch supports lined up and shook each one of their hands. 

The results were worth the wait.

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