JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
Nine Airmen tested their strength, agility and stamina during the Alpha Warrior regional competition here, Oct. 13, 2018.
With spectators and fellow competitors cheering them on, the Airmen raced to complete 14 exercises around a structure called the “Battle Rig” as fast as possible for a chance to compete in the upcoming national championship in San Antonio. The course included exercises like weighted squats, rope climbing, an inverted metal structure called the “Devil’s Ladder” and more.
“The course requires a lot of upper body strength and endurance,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Carter of the 628th Force Support Squadron. “Surprisingly, there’s also a lot of grip strength. It really tests you; one way through really gasses you so you have to have really good endurance and upper body strength.”
Carter, who oversaw the competition and ensured participants performed the exercises within the rules, added that the course is designed to test the physical limits of the athletes by incorporating unconventional workouts. He cited his first-hand experience with JB Charleston’s version of the “Battle Rig” – he placed fourth during the base competition on September 29.
“These workouts aren’t things you would do on a regular basis,” he said. “I can’t name the last time I climbed a rope other than during the Alpha Warrior course. It’s definitely a good test to see where you lay in the spectrum of fitness.”
While the majority of competitors were local, three Airmen made the trip from Georgia to JB Charleston to compete after qualifying at their respective bases.
Capt. Abigail Wilkins, an Air Force ROTC instructor at Valdosta State University, said she made the trip because it allowed her to set the example and promote a “Fit to Fight” mentality for her fellow Airmen.
“It wasn’t too bad; I don’t mind driving a little bit if that’s what it takes to get an opportunity to do something different and represent,” Wilkins said of the drive to Charleston. “I view it as an opportunity, so I was just appreciative that they were willing to invite us up here. I’m always trying to be out there and lead from the front. I’m also about women trying to be stronger and I like to get that mentality out there. There’s a lot of really strong girls out here, so that was really fun to be a part of.”
Wilkins also participated in the Alpha Warrior competition at Moody AFB two years ago. She said she was compelled to compete again because of the electric atmosphere and camaraderie.
“The one we did at Moody two years ago, people were cheering so loud you thought there was a concert going on in there,” she said. “That’s part of what makes it fun, being out there with the community. I know about five people here, but when I got up, I noticed a ton of people cheering for me and that was really cool. I greatly appreciated that because everybody is doing their best and that’s part of what fitness is about, the community aspect of it.”
Despite the travel and a lack of home-field advantage, Wilkins posted the fastest time (two minutes and 58 seconds) among the four female competitors and advanced to the national championships.
“It feels awesome,” she said. “I’m happy to be part of [this] again, and I’m definitely excited to go to nationals!”
Wilkins will be joined at the national competition by Senior Airman Jacob Wuerth, a crew chief assigned to the 437th Maintenance Squadron. His time of two minutes and three seconds was the top overall and 30 seconds faster than the closest competitor.
Wuerth said he learned about Alpha Warrior from his leadership, but didn’t intend to compete until shortly before the regional competition.
“They told me about this opportunity to become a coach for Alpha Warrior, so I took the qualification test,” he said. “Then, about four days ago, I was at the gym and [Carter] told me about this event going on today, so I decided to show up.”
Given his last-minute notice for the event, Wuerth relied on his current Air Force Pararescue selection training regimen to prepare for the competition.
“I’m getting ready to go Battlefield Airman, so I’ve been trying to get in really good shape,” he said. “I do some of this stuff in my workout, but I didn’t specifically train for this event.”
Carter, Wilkins and Wuerth all noted the health benefits of the Alpha Warrior program and the team atmosphere it promotes.
“It’s a good competitive atmosphere but at the same time, the camaraderie is super high,” said Carter. “[Alpha Warrior] is a great program, I enjoy it and I hope everybody else does too.”