WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --
Metal chains colliding with concrete, revving forklift engines, and triumphant cheering echoed across the cargo warehouse May 5, 2018 as more than 100 members of the 87th Aerial Port Squadron competed in small teams against one another to earn the highest honors during the Port Dawg Challenge.
The all-day training event, designed to give Airmen of all ranks the opportunity to hone their mission-critical skills with hands-on practice, was a raging success, according to Maj. David Borden, squadron commander.
“The point of this event was retention and membership,” he said. “We wanted to make sure our folks feel competent and equipped to perform their duties.”
Beyond the technical training, smiling faces and unrelenting attitudes gave evidence of something much deeper occurring throughout the course of the event.
“Even when a mistake is made, we see the individuals coming together as a team to address the error and fix it, rather than becoming frustrated with themselves or one another,” said retired Senior Master Sgt. Richard Warren. “What’s happening here is much more meaningful than the original goal of training.”
The morale of the squadron radiated through the warehouse during the event, which was heavily supported by former members of the squadron, either retired or separated and now part of the 87th Aerial Port Squadron Association (APSA).
“When someone retires, you naturally think that knowledge and leadership are lost forever,” said Master Sgt. Jon Webber. “We found a way to bring that back in a worthwhile environment.”
The APSA, founded in 2009, boasts approximately 150 members, 14 of whom attended the Port Dawg Challenge as volunteer mentors and evaluators.
“I was amazed by how attentive the lower-ranking Airmen were after each activity when interacting with the APSA members and receiving feedback,” Webber added.
The APSA volunteers made the event logistically possible, providing oversight for the training activities and hosting multiple stations spread across the warehouse and running concurrently, so no valuable training time was wasted.
“We couldn’t have done this without the help of the Association members,” Borden said. “They’ve been fantastic and this event has been incredibly beneficial to the unit as a whole.”
In all, the 87th APS completed about 380 man hours of hands-on training, spanning more than five skills categories, and consumed hundreds of freshly-grilled hamburgers and hot dogs provided by senior squadron leadership during the Port Dawg Challenge.