The Air Force defeated the Army and the Navy this weekend during the Alpha Warrior Inter-Service Battle, an obstacle course competition between the military services.
The service’s teams, each composed of three men and three women, were faced with more than 30 obstacles on the course set up at Retama Park in Selma, Texas. Barriers included pipe bombs and a three-story structure called “Alcatraz,” along with sand bags, ropes, and weighted sleds.
Maj. Gen. Tom Wilcox, Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center commander and host of the competition, said that several athletes who participated in service-specific competitions leading up to the inter-service competition said it was the “toughest thing they’ve ever trained for in their lives.”
“You’ve seen the obstacles,” Wilcox said, according to an Air Force news release. “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.”
In order to qualify to compete in the inter-service challenge, service members worked their way through base, regional, and super-regional competitions first. The Air Force’s final service-specific competition wrapped up on Thursday.
Those who qualified for the Air Force team were: Capt. Noah Palicia of Yokota Air Base in Japan; 2nd Lt. Arielle Miller, Edwards Air Force Base, California; 2nd Lt. Michelle Strickland of Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi; 2nd Lt. Rhett Spongberg of Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas; Staff Sgt. Seth Golloway of Hurlburt Field in Florida; 2nd Lt. Mary Caitlin Dominguez of Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi.
For Noah, there was a familiar face on the Army’s team: his brother Lt. Col. Eric Palicia from Wiesbaden, Germany. The brothers had the two fastest times among inter-service males, making Noah the top male inter-service athlete, followed by Eric.
The competition is nothing new to Noah, who finished the course in 21 minutes and 5 seconds. In fact, he was also the fastest athlete in the competition in 2018.
“I’ve learned so much about alternate methods to train my entire body in one workout,” Noah said, according to an Air Force news release. “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.”
According to Noah, qualifying for a top spot on the Air Force’s team was more difficult than in 2018 because “the people are here are very, very good athletes.”
He also encouraged others to not be intimidated by the battle rigs the Air Force has established through its Alpha Warrior program at more than 70 Air Force bases worldwide.
According to Wilcox, physical fitness is just one piece of the puzzle to success in the competition. Proper physical training must be coupled with proper nutrition.
Strickland, a vegan who ranked No. 1 among inter-service female athletes, said that nutrition was a significant factor for her, especially given her schedule as a student pilot doesn’t accommodate long workouts at the gym.
“(To prepare for this competition) I took every opportunity I could to at least get in the gym a couple 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.
“The competition was definitely the hardest physical thing I’ve ever done and it feels good to be rewarded,” Strickland said.
Even though the Air Force returned home with the trophy and bragging rights, Wilcox said the competition demonstrated the teamwork among athletes and good sportsmanship.
“These are the Navy, Army and Air Force’s top athletes and we got to see them today,” Wilcox said.
“At the end of the day, the best thing that I’ve seen is all the teamwork,” Wilcox said. “Taking care of each other, rooting each other on and that healthy lifestyle.”
This is the second year of the inter-service battle — and the second time the Air Force has earned the title — although the Air Force’s Alpha Warrior program has been in place for three years.