Talon Challenge develops critical thinking while putting Airmen under 'real world' pressure

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kari Degraffenreed
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

In the dark, early morning hours, students from the 97th Training Squadron shuffle from their dorms to the running track with their reflective belts shining and a buzz of anticipation in the air.

The students were preparing to participate in the Talon Challenge at Altus Air Force Base, Okla., Oct. 14 - an event 97 TRS leaders host to grow students, mentor them and take them back to the basics of being an Airman.

“The ultimate purpose of the challenge is to get the Airmen to start thinking as a one-person team,” said Tech. Sgt. Ryan Murray, 97th TRS lead military training superintendent. “It’s also meant to develop their critical thinking skills while we put them under stress to simulate real world pressure.”

While the students were participating in the challenge, their six training leaders were undergoing their own tests during the inaugural evaluation for the Master MTL program. The program is meant to identify the top 10 percent of military training leaders.

“The evaluators are out here to test the training leaders on various skills,” said Master Sgt. Joseph Weidenbach, 97th TRS first sergeant. “Whether it’s marching, leading the students through exercises, or giving a professional development seminar, we’re looking for that top-level MTL to identify and award the title of Master MTL.”

The day began with a one-and-a-half-mile march from the running track to the training area. During the march, the students’ stamina was tested along with their ability to keep in step with their flight. Meanwhile, their assigned training leaders were evaluated on their ability to keep cadence and correct any mistakes the Airmen made.

Once at the training area, the students rotated through six different exercises. From doing cognitive and physical challenges with the Comprehensive Readiness Aircrew Flying Training team, to Tactical Combat Casualty Care and Airmanship classes, the students were tested physically, mentally, and emotionally during the day-long event.

“It’s about building the student’s mentality,” Tech. Sgt. Lindsay May, 97th TRS military training leader said. “We’re helping them prepare to embrace the suck, so they are ready for the next fight.”

By the end of each challenge, the faces of the participants, both students and MTLs alike, bore a demeanor of accomplishment.

“The Talon Challenge helps us to honor the legacy of where we came from,” said Airman 1st Class Daniel McRae, 97th TRS loadmaster student. “We’re honoring the Airmen who came before us by working through these challenges, getting a better understanding of the Airman’s Creed, and it’s ultimately teaching us to work together as a team.”