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Rough Riders depart for Guardian Challenge 2006

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Members of the 91st Space Wing's Guardian Challenge Team received praise and admiration during a send off rally from fellow Rough Riders at the Bully Dome Tuesday. Following the send-off, the team's Security Force members departed for the Aug. 14 to 18 competition which will be held at Colorado Springs, Colo. 

Other members of the 2006 Guardian Challenge team depart for Colorado Springs Sunday at noon to help defend their 2004 title in an attempt to hold onto the coveted Gen. William H. Blanchard Trophy for another year. 

"We're going to bring the Blanchard back!" said Col. Marty Whelan, 91st SW commander. "That is the primary purpose of this competition. We have great mission-focused people devoting 100 percent of themselves 365 days a year; they deserve it. Besides, the Blanchard's found a home at Minot; it's been here four of the past six years. There's no reason to let it rest anywhere else." 

Guardian Challenge tests the wartime readiness of Air Force Space Command specialists in spacelift, intercontinental-ballistic-missile operations, communications, maintenance, helicopter operations and security forces. 

"This is a great chance for us to showcase the men and women of Team Minot," said Colonel Whelan. "It takes a team effort to pull this off and we know that the biggest part of our team, the Rough Riders who will maintain the watch here at Minot, expects and deserves our very best effort. We want to acknowledge all the hard work put in by the trainers and the sacrifices made by squadron-mates and families. Without the total team effort we wouldn't be ready to fight and win." 

Because of the Air Force's increase in operations tempo, this year's competition differs from previous years because most of the competitors have already competed at their home station. Additionally, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., vice Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calf, is hosting the event. The only part of the competition that has not competed yet is the security forces. Security forces teams will compete against other AFSPC organizations in tactics and marksmanship Monday and Tuesday at the Air Force Academy and run the obstacle course at Schriever AFB, also in Colorado Springs Wednesday. 

This year's competition being different doesn't mean it will hinder Rough Rider spirits. "This year's competition may be broken up, but we are still a team," said Colonel Whelan. "We're going to fight together and we're going to win together." 

Senior Airman James Rowin, 91st Missile Security Forces Squadron and a member of the team who left Tuesday, said he was anxious to get started. 

"This is my first competition and it's going to be a challenge," he said. "Bringing the Blanchard back is going to be difficult because we're the reigning champs and everyone is going to be gunning for us." 

As for Senior Airman Will Benson, 91st MSFS, said he is proud to be representing Minot. "We get to compete against other bases while getting to do what I love," he said. 

All the members leaving Tuesday were in very high spirits even though they were about to endure a 13-hour ride to Colorado Springs. According to Colonel Whelan there was only one drawback to that long drive. 

"It's too bad we have to drive the Blanchard Trophy all the way down to Colorado Springs, just to fly it all the back." 

In addition to team members, several Minot civic leaders will make the trip to support the Rough Riders participation in Guardian Challenge. 

The award ceremony will be held Thursday and Guardian Challenge members arrive back here Aug. 19.
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