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Panthers scratch out competition at Guardian Challenge

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. - -- The Black Panther is not a specific animal, but a group of big cats in the Panthera family that share the same abnormality of one of the cat genes associated with coat coloration and markings. Those scientifically recognized as legitimate black panthers are leopards and jaguars.

Buckley Panthers, while not limited to one career field, belong to the same space wing and some of them competed against other wings for the last several weeks during Guardian Challenge. Those who competed belonged to the 460th Space Communications Squadron, combined 460th/137th Security Forces Squadron and the 460th Operations Group.

"I'm really proud of every Buckley Guardian Challenge team member," said Col. Wayne McGee, 460th Space Wing commander. "Everyone who helped to make this happen did a fantastic job and should be very proud of themselves."

Maj. Hoang Nguyen, 460th Space Wing Guardian Challenge point of contact, teamed up with Lt. Col. R. Dwain Hamilton, Maj. Teresa Darrow and others to plan out this year's Guardian Challenge.

The 460th OG Space Operations Team beat seven other teams from four space wings to take first place in their category for the first time at Guardian Challenge. The communications team nearly repeated as winner in their category, but came up just shy of victory. The combined 460th/137th SFS team competed outside during a harsh snowstorm and battled their opponents and Mother Nature.

"Our teams, and even Buck Lee, were competing against their peers -- the best warriors in Space Command," said Colonel McGee. "The operators came away with a hard earned victory. They should be proud of their accomplishments. With that said, every Buckley Airman did a great job."

Major Nguyen said he was very happy for the operations team when he heard Maj. Gen. Thomas Deppe, Air Force Space Command vice commander, make the announcement. 

"Their efforts reflected the benefits of a Total Force and multi-national team," said the Major. "The 460th OG combined team soundly defeated the other teams by a large margin and each individual received a huge trophy."

The tradition of Guardian Challenge began in 1967 when Strategic Air Command opened its first missile combat competition, nicknamed "Curtain Raiser." Two combat crews from each intercontinental ballistic missile wing and a single combat targeting and alignment team competed to determine the best of the best.

Air Force Space Command held its first Guardian Challenge competition in 1994, incorporating units from around the globe including Canada and Australia as well as representatives from the U.S. Navy. This year's contest included the United Kingdom, systems wings and members of the Department of Defense federal police.

Major Nguyen said some of the benefits of Guardian Challenge are to recognize the best and brightest Airmen in the missiles, security forces, communications and space operations career fields. 

He added that the competition also serves to gather lessons learned, develop better tactics, techniques and procedures to improve the various missions.

"It's a great opportunity for us to apply what we know and the training we've received," said Senior Airman Matthew Masciorini, a member of the security forces team. "It allows us to show off our career field to others that don't necessarily know what we're about."

The Buckley competitors were:

Capt. Derek Norton
Cpl. Brad Edwardes
Senior Airman Daniel Kendall
Airman 1st Class Steven Darracott

Security Forces Squadron
Tech. Sgt. Duane Blackmon
Staff Sgt. Aaron Trujillo
Senior Airman Amanda Nye
Senior Airman Matthew Masciorini

Senior Airman Jonathan Nicolosi
Airman 1st Class Jonathan Zielinski

Buck Lee
Staff Sgt. Jose Garcia
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