MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --
At the sound of a sergeant’s shout, two Airmen break into a sprint while another two rush to the start line, anticipating their turn.
This 800-meter dash was just the beginning of a 15-minute assessment 91st Security Forces Group defenders completed during the 91st Missile Wing’s Tactical Response Force tryouts.
TRF is a special weapons and tactics team tasked with protecting Minot Air Force Base’s nuclear assets.
“TRF is like the tactical commander’s SWAT team if compared to civilian law enforcement,” said Col. Chad Gallagher, 91st SFG commander. “They get additional training, have more capabilities and a better sense of teamwork as a small unit. If a unit [in the missile field] faces a force that they can’t handle themselves, they call in TRF.”
Recently, TRF was revamped by the 91st SFG. The tryouts are ensuring every spot in the 64-man team is filled.
More than 100 Airmen withstood the 15-hour tryouts, testing their skillsets to be named the best of the best.
“We’re looking for Airmen that can operate as a team member or leader,” said Capt. Ryan Kiggins, 91st SFG chief of weapons and tactics and TRF officer-in-charge. “They need to be able to push through any problems, find quick solutions and implement their force in the most effective way possible while maintaining the teamwork concept.”
At 7 a.m., participating 91st Security Forces Group defenders rallied for a roll-call, equipment checks and the start of the morning 15-minute assessment. The assessment consisted of different physical abilities such as running, a body drag, door ramming, push-ups, pull-ups and rope climbing.
“We don’t do these physical assessments for the Airmen to know they can complete it, but for them to be able to take care of their partner,” said Master Sgt. Derrick Smith, 91st SFG TRF superintendent.
Each team was required to progress together. Where one Airman fell short, their teammate prevailed to help complete the challenge.
Another portion of the tryouts included hopping in the base pool for water exercises. The water forced Airmen to use different muscles and techniques. If an Airman was not a good swimmer, they were paired with one who was and worked together to complete the exercises.
“The pool is an equalizer,” said Smith. “Some people are [physical training] studs but everything could change in the pool. The intent is to get people as uncomfortable as possible and ensure they still maintain their calm and collectiveness.”
The tryouts continued with additional leadership challenges, physical activities and a tactical baton training, also known as the “red man practical”.
While the tryouts may have been challenging to some Airmen, it represents the challenges that accompany being a part of the TRF team.
“Mental strength is key to building up physical strength and teamwork,” said Kiggins. “People’s bodies are going to give out; muscles are going to fatigue. From there, the heart will be what pushes Airmen to continue through.”
“We push them so they will either succeed or fail as a team,” Kiggins continued. “There are no individual tasks; everything is completed in pairs. This is what develops the teamwork. If they can rely on their partner through this, we can trust them to continue that in a real-world situation.”
Although Airmen were dripping wet and exhausted, they ended their day with a new perspective of what it means to work as a team. It is through this and other training that they can start to feel more comfortable with being uncomfortable.