Readiness Challenge IX and the Spirit of Interoperability

  • Published
  • By Diana Nesukh
  • Headquarters Air Force, Office of the Director of Civil Engineers

The success of tomorrow’s complex, multi-domain environment depends on preparing Airmen today to operate in all climates and adapt readiness to continuously evolving threats.

Air Force Civil Engineers competed in Readiness Challenge IX April 24-28, involving a range of different challenges testing their preparedness, determination, and teamwork.

Readiness Challenge is a capstone event that tests the full spectrum of warfare-environment operations and was conducted at full operational capability this year for the first time in more than 20 years.

Initially established in 1986, Readiness Challenge was designed for Airmen to develop skills, build teamwork, and increase exposure to combat support tasks.

This year, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve Command, Air Education and Training Command, Air Force Global Strike Command, Air Force District of Washington, Air Combat Command, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa, and Pacific Air Forces were represented across eight teams.

Held at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, Readiness Challenge was executed by the 801st RED HORSE Training Squadron, sponsored by Air Force Civil Engineer Center, and planned by both.

With over 300 Airmen competing, RED HORSE cadre evaluating, Air Force leaders supporting, and allies and partners observing, Readiness Challenge IX showcased the very best Air Force Civil Engineers have to offer.

After a week of rigorous competitions involving comprehensive base response and recovery operations, Air Combat Command led by the 99th Civil Engineer Squadron from Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, was crowned victorious.

While Readiness Challenge offered the opportunity to showcase the breadth of civil engineering capabilities, it also served as a platform for developing future engineering partnerships. In attendance this year were partners and allies from Japan, Canada, the Netherlands, and Singapore, among other nations.

“Engineer interoperability is the key to victory in future conflicts,” said Brig. Gen. Brian Hartless, Director of Air Force Civil Engineers. “Engineers are hard wired for challenge and this week proves that, leading the way in these challenges and building and growing relationships with our allies and partners.”

Col. Hasegawa Tomomi from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force reflected on the invaluable exposure to civil engineering capabilities Readiness Challenge presented. He recognized the extraordinary opportunity to learn new skills, understand the proper use of equipment, and interact with American civil engineers. He also noted how Readiness Challenge provided Japan an opportunity to interact with other countries and build ties.

Strengthening alliances creates an asymmetric advantage for the United States through access, interoperability, and increased domain awareness. Events like Readiness Challenge ensure the Air Force continues developing ready and capable partners to collectively address global security challenges, if and when they arise.

Reflecting on what it means to have partner nations in attendance at Readiness Challenge, USAF Capt. John Penaranda said, “we're working on securing our futures based on the speed of trust.”

He elaborated on the need to build alliances proactively rather than reactively when there is a threat at hand. “I need to be able to know that the people I'm working with to my left and right are engineers that I can trust. That comes from being at these engagements,” Penaranda said.

Growing partner airpower capability goes beyond aircraft and equipment. Supporting partners through exercises, training, professional military education, information exchange and cooperative agreements are key aspects of success.

“The most valuable part of being here is having the opportunity to connect with the staff that organized this event. It is a huge undertaking and allows us to learn about capabilities that might differ from our own,” said Lt. Col. Ulpiano Honorio, from the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Chief Warrant Officer Rachel Rickard was also in attendance representing the Royal Canadian Air Force and emphasized the need to collaborate in future exercises.

“It's great to see the things we haven't been exposed to and think of how we might be able to contribute our own knowledge and skill set in the future,” Rickard said.

This year’s Readiness Challenge tested civil engineer contingency skills while operating in contested and degraded environments, strengthening their posture for the future fight. It was also an opportunity to promote multilateral cooperation and relationship-building between partner nations in attendance.

“The events at Readiness Challenge gave us valuable insight into our partners and allies, actually bring engineering concepts into practice,” said Maj. Thom Brand, from the Royal Netherlands Air Force. “We hope to continue to grow our partnership with fellow engineers in the alliance, building an even stronger bond between NATO engineers.”

Capt. Martijn Genet was also in attendance representing the Royal Netherlands Air Force, while Capt. Daniel Vink the Royal Netherlands Army.

From Singapore, Military Expert (ME) 6 Wong Chee Yuen and ME 5 Isaac Joseph were in attendance observing Readiness Challenge.

As preparations begin for Readiness Challenge X, the goal is to garner participation from allies and partners. Civil engineers, working together side by side, learning from one another, and harnessing new capabilities they can take back to their home stations.

Strategic competition is the primary national security challenge of today. Through effective readiness training and relationship building activities, the entire enterprise can enhance cooperation and strengthen partnerships to be ready for future challenges.