Meet your 54th HS Global Strike Challenge team

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Stephanie Morris
  • Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs
Four Airmen from the 54th Helicopter Squadron and two from the Tactical Response Force were selected to represent Minot Air Force Base in the 2015 Global Strike Challenge helicopter competition.

Global Strike Challenge is the world's premier bomber, intercontinental ballistic missile, helicopter and security forces competition. It is a head-to-head competition across Air Force Global Strike Command's bomber and missile wings. Teams include missile, bomber, helicopter, security forces and maintenance teams in AFGSC.

The score posting for the winners of this year's competition is slated to occur in early October at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana.

"Team members were chosen through careful consideration of individual flying and mission experience levels.  The team is well-balanced between experienced and non-experienced members in order to represent the men and women of the 54th Helicopter Squadron and Team Minot," said Capt. John Nep, 54th HS aircraft commander. "This will be the first time competing in the GSC for all of us."

The 54th HS will compete against two other helicopter squadron teams, the 37th HS from Francis E. Warren AFB, Wyoming and 40th HS from Malmstrom AFB Montana, in Air Force Global Strike Command.

Their competition consists of three main events; the first is a search and rescue scenario in which they will have to navigate to a site; locate a survivor and complete two hoists. The second event is an emergency security response; the crew will have to respond to a simulated hostile situation at a site; access the tactical situation on the ground by identifying all potential threats; and insert two tactical response force members who will neutralize the simulated threats. Finally, the team will take part in a night-vision goggle tactical exercise; they will execute a low-level flight at night utilizing NVGs to navigate around simulated ground threats; pick up a two person TRF team from one landing zone and then infiltrate them into another landing zone to protect a simulated hostile site.

The team prepared for these events by practicing with a forest penetrator hoist, flying sorties through the missile complex and discussing tactics for effective team work during the competition.

"We've been working on crew resource management, crew coordination and in-flight practice," Nep said. "Most importantly, however, our currency flights have allowed us to form a cohesive six-member team with the ability to react quickly to the always changing mission environment."

The 54th HS has held the Bourland Trophy for Best Helicopter Squadron since 2011 with victories in 2011, 2012 and 2014. Because of this, the team admits they will have a high standard to live up to.

"There's a lot of pressure this year to follow up on our consecutive victories, but I know we are going to win the competition and bring another victory home to Team Minot," Nep said.

Members of the 54th HS team include:
Capt. John Nep - aircraft commander
Capt. Ajay McLaughlin - co-pilot
Tech. Sgt. Tim McKinley - flight engineer
Staff Sgt. Nick Estrada - flight engineer
Senior Airman Devon Martin - tactical response force team-lead
Airman 1st Class Billy Barron - tactical response force member