More than 50 Airmen with the 20th Special Operations Squadron at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., along with two CV-22 Ospreys and an MC-130 Combat Talon supported the event. "We got remarkable support from Air Force Special Operations Command," the Cadet Wing Training Division director said. Polaris Warrior training events also proved to be a great recruitment tool for special operations career fields.
A CV-22 Osprey with the 20th Special Operations Squadron at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., descends on the Air Force Academy Cadet Area during the Academy's Polaris Warrior event April 28, 2012. Polaris Warrior combined several military training challenges designed to reinforce skills that cadets may need in the field. (U.S. Air Force photo/Raymond McCoy)
Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel speaks with cadets at the conclusion of Polaris Warrior at the Air Force Academy April 28, 2012. Fiel is the commander of Air Force Special Operations Command. (U.S. Air Force photo/Raymond McCoy)
5/7/2012 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Almost a year of cadet training in military field skills culminated Saturday in what Commandant of Cadets Brig. Gen. Rich Clark called a "boom event."
The Polaris Warrior competition featured 10 events themed around skills cadets may need in deployed environments after they graduate.
"It's a chance for cadets to really show what they've learned, to have their skills tested and to compete, squadron against squadron, in all the skill areas they've been training in," Clark said.
Cadet Squadron 39 took top honors in the competition, which included self-aid and buddy care, mobile operations in urban terrain, combat arms and land navigation. CS 40 and CS 33 took second and third place, respectively.
Two teams each from the commandant's staff, the Dean of Faculty mission element and the 10th Air Base Wing also competed in the Battlefield Airman portion of the event.
Polaris Warrior started with Clark's stated desire to institute more military-style training during the academic year, culminating in a large-scale event, said Maj. John Schroeder, deputy chief of the Cadet Wing Training Division here.
"We tried to build an academic-year plan accordingly," Schroeder said. "We had to make course corrections along the way because this was our first year trying to plan such a large-scale event."
The overall training plan came together in spring of 2011, Schroeder said. Planning for Saturday's challenge began in December. Cadet 1st Class Michael Oakley of Cadet Squadron 30 and Cadet 2nd Class Tyler Stearns of CS 36 became involved a month later as the event's cadet in charge and cadet NCO in charge, respectively.
"We had to make sure every squadron was prepared," said Stearns, a native of Anchorage, Alaska. "We had to make sure they knew what Polaris Warrior was, that they knew about the final event, and most importantly, that they knew how to prepare for the final event."
Six of the events were compulsory. Another four, including a physical training challenge and a "sprint" from the Cadet Area to Falcon Stadium and back, were optional, Stearns said. After each event, squadron cadets in charge called in scores, which Oakley and Stearns tabulated with Schroeder's help.
Polaris Warrior allowed juniors to ease into leadership roles, which they will do to a larger degree as seniors during summer and 2013 academic year, Oakley said.
"Putting second-class cadets in charge is key for preparing them for next year. It gave them the opportunity for trial and error on a smaller scale before they really take charge of their squadrons," he added.
More than 50 Airmen with the 20th Special Operations Squadron at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., also supported the event, along with six aircraft, including two CV-22 Ospreys and an MC-130 Combat Talon, said Lt. Col. Tony Valerio, the Cadet Wing Training Division director and a 1992 Academy graduate.
"We got remarkable support from Air Force Special Operations Command," Valerio said.
Airmen with the 20th SOS interacted directly with cadets, including a gathering at Arnold Hall the evening of April 25 as well as attendance alongside cadets in classes and at the April 27 noon meal formation. The interaction worked well, said Maj. David Penuela, the squadron's assistant director of operations.
"Integration into the actual Polaris Warrior training events also proved to be a great recruitment tool" for special operations career fields, Penuela said. Cadets' enthusiasm also motivated the AFSOC Airmen who took part.
Valerio said he would like to refine the process of preparing for Polaris Warrior in future years but added that he was "extremely proud of the blood, sweat and tears" that Schroeder and the two cadets invested in coordinating and pulling off the inaugural Polaris Warrior.
"I couldn't be more proud of the job they did and the efforts they put out there," he said.
POLARIS WARRIOR RESULTS
Overall Winner: Cadet Squadron 39
Compulsory events -
Mobile operations in urban terrain: CS 27
Combat arms training and maintenance: CS 29
Self-aid and buddy care: CS 01
Obstacle course: CS 05
Battlefield Airman: CS 40
Land navigation: CS 39