Valiant Eagle is the Bird of Competition
By Tech. Sgt. William Buchanan, 125th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 08, 2013
Guardsmen competed for glory and compliance Dec. 4-6 at Jacksonville Air National Guard Base. -- For three days, Guardsmen of all ranks battled to be the best in tactical training, physical challenges and trivia contests. The competition, dubbed Valiant Eagle, pitted teams of Airmen against one another as well as the official combat readiness regulations, effectively disguising training as friendly competition.
"They got pretty creative in the events that they worked up," said Capt. Clayton Thompson, acting Inspector General Internal (IGI) inspector for Valiant Eagle.
Planning for Valiant Eagle began in October 2013 during the government shutdown. At that time, a Phase II Operational Readiness Inspection was scheduled for the first week of December. Due to cutbacks, the Phase II was scaled down and leadership brainstormed ways to maximize training effectiveness within their new fiscal parameters.
Valiant Eagle evolved from what individual shops might refer to as a rodeo or "turkey shoot." A turkey shoot was originally used in the pilot and OPS career fields as a way to turn mandatory training requirements into a competitive event. So wing leadership asked the groups and squadrons to identify individual combat skills that could be turned into a competition, and then asked Airmen across the wing who was the best.
"They haven't done this before, and I've seen definitely a lot more motivation than doing it the standard way," said Airman 1st Class Manuel Repollet, POL fuels journeyman. "It's a little bit more lax, but at the same time you still get the vital training you need."
Events in Valiant Eagle were judged using two levels of criteria. First, Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) defined the challenges and submitted their own metrics for judging each team's success. These metrics were evaluated and approved by leadership.
Then, at a second level, IGI Inspectors evaluated each event for their overall effectiveness at training Airmen in necessary combat skills. IGI has identified areas within each event that would qualify for official inspections under AFI 9201, and were present during the competitions to inspect those criteria. Upon completion of Valiant Eagle, the IGI team will write a formal report.
"This is the first year we've done it, and I think it's probably on our radar to continue," Thompson said.
Although Valiant Eagle was designed to teach essential combat skills and increase mission readiness, its secondary mission was to boost morale and esprit de corps. Individuals from every shop in the wing were free to assemble their own teams and compete against rivals and strangers alike. For many events, friends and shop mates became spectators cheering and jeering at event participants.
One team from each event was awarded a trophy during a ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 7. For some competitions, such as PT, individuals were also given certificates in recognition of their outstanding performance. Overall, Valiant Eagle provided a fun and competitive environment for Airmen to practice their combat skills.
"Hopefully it grows from here and just gets better as we move forward," Thompson said.