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Guardian Challenge COMM Airmen: We were ready

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Two Airmen from the 460th Space Communications Squadron withstood hours of questioning by experts in their field all while being thrown surprise scenarios to test their job knowledge and ability to cope with mission critical pressure situations and came away feeling up to the challenge.

Guardian Challenge to be exact. Senior Airman Scott Mattan and Airman 1st Class Christopher Cianfrone-Adams, both 460th SCS technical controllers were outnumbered by evaluators 3-2, but said they were ready for the evaluator's questions and look forward to finding out the results during closing ceremonies of the command level competition May 19-21.

Staff Sgt. Joshua Black, a 460th Space Communications technical controller, was charged with training the team and feels good about how his Airmen competed. The process began when Space Command sent him a list of what items and scenarios were to be evaluated. The technical controller eliminated the subjects he knew the Airmen knew well and set up training on any weak points the pair might have. All agreed the plan worked.

"I'd say two weeks before, I knew they would kick butt," said Sergeant Black. "I knew they would do well from the start. We have a good team of new Airmen."

Sergeant Black said the squadron selected relatively young Airmen because they're not far removed from technical training, their ability to learn a lot about new subjects is high and they're "just darn good at what they do." He said the main reason they try to go young has to do with growing their Airmen for the future and betterment of the Air Force.

"It's good to give them experience and to see how competition works," he said. "If all the NCOs and SNCOs took all the competitions, Airmen wouldn't know how it worked when it came their time to do these evaluations. I think it's really good for them to do this. They're scared, but at the end of the day, both of them enjoyed it.

Neither Airman owned up to being scared, but Airman Cianfrone-Adams did say after being selected he was a little nervous while being congratulated by senior NCOs and leadership because they told him how important Guardian Challenge is and what an honor it is to be selected.

"They made it sound like we were going to go into - like a fight or something. That's the way they made it sound. As we approached it, we saw it was a pretty big deal for [Gen. C. Robert] Kehler, Air Force Space Command commander.

Airman Mattan said he was confident going into the evaluation.

"For me it was basically just ... not a problem. I wasn't nervous," he said. "I wasn't really anxious or anything like that. I was just confident in the fact that I know everything I need to know and I'm going to do well and if I don't then I'll learn from that. I went in there with that kind of attitude."

Airman Cianfrone-Adams said they studied hard and compared it to studying his CDCs.

"With this, you get down to the nitty-gritty and you find out that it's just the outer layer stuff that they're messing with, but that's always how it is when you're preparing," he said. "It's awesome that we got to participate in it. It's been going on for so long and to be a part of something so big - obviously if you win, you're just going to be joy filled."

Sergeant Black was proud of the confidence of both Airmen and said that was a huge part of why he feels they did so well.

"You know, confidence is key in tech. control," he said. "If you don't know what you're saying, they're gonna walk all over you.

"Well, we defiantly sounded like we owned the place when we were talking to them," said Airman Cianfrone-Adams.

In May, they hope to own some hardware to go along with their performance. Win or lose, though, the Airmen recognize this is likely their only chance to compete in Guardian Challenge and took as much as they could from the experience.

"It was a good experience win or lose," said Airman Mattan. "First of all - all of your evaluators are from your career field. They're going to have a vast amount of knowledge about the career field. On top of that, if you go into it with the training mindset, you're going to learn something - especially because these are things that could happen. They could occur."
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