Story by Deborah Aragon on 09/23/2019The Air Force won its second straight Alpha Warrior Inter-Service Championship over the Army and Navy Sept. 14 at Retama Park here.
The grueling competition saw the three, six-person teams tackling more than 30 obstacles at the Alpha Warrior Proving Ground, the same place where just two days earlier they competed in service-specific competitions to earn a spot in the inter-service finals.
"I was here Thursday and let me tell you this is a tough course," said Maj. Gen. Tom Wilcox, Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center commander and host of the event, during his opening remarks. "I talked to five or six athletes after (the service specific competition) and they told me this is the toughest thing they've ever trained for in their lives."
The course for both days consisted of more than 30 obstacles half of them permanent obstacles with names like pipe bombs, barrel rolls and a three-story structure called "Alcatraz." The others were strength obstacles involving sand bags, ropes and weighted sleds.
"You've seen the obstacles," Wilcox said. "You have to train, pace yourself, (and) have a strategy. You have to know your strengths and weaknesses and when to turn it on and when to turn it off."
Having that strategy came a little easier for Air Force Capt. Noah Palicia, who was more familiar with the course after the 2018 Inter-Service Battle when he was the fastest athlete in the competition.
He was again the fastest person on the course and helped secure a repeat victory for the Air Force.
Times for individual inter-service athletes were:
Top 3 Females
Air Force 2nd Lt. Michelle Strickland, 25 minutes, 5 seconds, from Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi
Air Force 2nd Lt. Arielle Miller, 26 minutes, 34 seconds, from Edwards AFB, California
Air Force 2nd Lt. MaryCaitlin Dominguez, 28 minutes, 42 seconds, from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia
Top 3 Males
Air Force Capt. Noah Palicia, 21 minutes, 5 seconds, from Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea
Army Lt. Col. Eric Palicia (brother to Noah) 22 minutes, 29 seconds, from Wiesbaden, Germany
Navy Petty Officer William Rosencrans, 25 minutes, 5 seconds, from Tokyo, Japan
Establishing an inter-service competition two years ago, in conjunction with the Air Force's Alpha Warrior program, was a great opportunity, said Col. Donna Turner, commander of the Air Force Services Center, the unit that manages the Air Force's fitness and food programs.
"We live, work and play together with our sister services out in the field and this is a great opportunity to get together, celebrate these athletes and encourage them," she said. "It's a huge thing and they're all winners from all of the athletes on Thursday to today. It's inspiring to see everything that they're doing to be better Soldiers, Sailors or Airmen."
Air Force team members -- the top three men and women from Thursday's competition -- were Noah Palicia, Strickland, Miller, Dominguez, 2nd Lt. Rhett Spongberg from Laughlin AFB, Texas; and Staff Sgt. Seth Golloway from Hurlburt Field, Florida
Army team members were Eric Palicia, 1st Lt. Braden Leonardo from Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas; 2nd Lt. Chris Gabayan from Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Maj. Nicole Solana from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; Sgt. Bawnie Sutton with the Texas Army National Guard at Fort Hood, Texas; and Sgt. Elizabeth Cox, Texas Army National Guard in Austin, Texas.
Navy team members were Commander Timothy White from the Naval Operations Support Center in El Paso, Texas, and Petty Officers Austin Alexander from the Seal Beach Harbor Patrol Unit, California; William Rosencrans, Tokyo, Japan; and Mikala Hawkins, Corry Station, Florida.
"These are the Navy, Army and Air Force's top athletes and we got to see them today," Wilcox said. "For some of these athletes, this was their fifth battle in different aspects around the country. At the end of the day, the best thing that I've seen is all the teamwork. Taking care of each other, rooting each other on and that healthy lifestyle."
Although at the end of the day, a trophy and bragging rights were on the line, the competition was much more than just competing on a field of battle, the AFIMSC commander said.
"It's about functional fitness," Wilcox said. "It's about taking care of yourself. It's about resiliency but the other piece is nutrition. If you don't prepare yourself and eat right as part of this, you will not come out and be successful."
Stickland was in full agreement.
"(To prepare for this competition) I took every opportunity I could to at least get in the gym a couple of times a week and really push as hard as I could while there, and I think nutrition is a big part of it too," said Strickland, a student pilot with not much free time to work out because of training and mandatory crew rest and a strict vegan.
"The competition was definitely the hardest physical thing I've ever done and it feels good to be rewarded," Strickland added.
It's that combination of fitness and fuel that perfects the human weapon system our nation needs, Turner said.
"Alpha Warrior is a great opportunity for unit cohesion, to build on functional fitness, to help build that athlete-warrior mentality and allow everyone to see that this is a holistic human performance activity," Turner said. "It's how we train, how we prepare, (and) the nutrition that we use to fuel the human weapon system to ensure we're able to conduct the mission for this great nation."
As part of its Alpha Warrior program, the Air Force has set up smaller battle rigs and stations at more than 70 installations around the globe.
Palicia, whose brother was the top finisher on the Army team, is passionate about what the rigs and stations can do for Airmen at installations.
"I've learned so much about alternate methods to train my entire body in one workout," he said. "I've also learned valuable skills to maneuver and control my body in a dynamic movement. Overall, this Alpha Warrior fitness program has improved my muscular strength, muscular endurance, ability to problem solve in a physical environment and my coordination."
He said he understands, for many, the equipment may look a little daunting but encourages everyone Airmen and their family members to give it a try at their installations.
"Don't be deterred by the look of the rig," he said. "There are different levels and certified instructors at fitness centers who can safely coach you to accomplish the rig, and there are many workouts you can do around the rig that don't take grip strength."
People can learn more about Alpha Warrior equipment at their installation by visiting the fitness center or talking to unit physical training leaders.