The Air Force’s 18th Air Support Operations Group (ASOG) recently held its annual Dragon Challenge, a three-day competition where 33 airmen competed in physical and technical tasks to vie for the title of the best in their career fields. The challenge occurred amid the broader Air Force’s plans to significantly reduce its Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) workforce by 44 percent from 3,700 to 2,130 by 2025.
- The Dragon Challenge was a three-day contest where 33 airmen from three career fields: Tactical Air Control Party (TACP), intelligence, and special warfare mission support (SWMS) competed in physical fitness events, a job knowledge exam, shooting challenges, and a simulated special operations mission.
- The competition pushes participants to their physical and mental limits, reflecting the strain of performing complex tasks in real-world operations.
- The training and testing of skills within the challenge is crucial, as the skills Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) operators are trained in are perishable, thus requiring constant honing.
- The broader Air Force is planning a significant reduction in its TACP workforce by 44 percent, from 3,700 to 2,130 by 2025, due to the anticipated retirement of A-10 Warthog close air support jets.
- Despite the uncertain future of TACP, the competitors in the Dragon Challenge remain dedicated, with the 19th Air Support Operations Squadron (ASOS) winning the title of best overall team, best TACP team, and best SWMS team.
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