Cadet Squadron 23 repeats as Commandant’s Challenge champs

Cadet Squadron 23 cadets celebrate their second-straight victory in the Commandant's Challenge at the Air Force Academy's Clune Arena Nov. 24, 2009. CS23 also shared first place in the "Falcon Feud" military knowledge competition with CS40. (U.S. Air Force photo/Johnny Wilson)

Cadet Squadron 23 cadets celebrate their second-straight victory in the Commandant's Challenge at the Air Force Academy's Clune Arena Nov. 24, 2009. CS23 also shared first place in the "Falcon Feud" military knowledge competition with CS40. (U.S. Air Force photo/Johnny Wilson)

Brig. Gen. Samuel Cox affixes the Commandant's Challenge 2009 Champion streamer to Cadet Squadron 23's guidon at the conclusion of the challenge Nov. 24, 2009. The win is the second in a row for CS23. General Cox is the commandant of cadets. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)

Brig. Gen. Samuel Cox affixes the Commandant's Challenge 2009 Champion streamer to Cadet Squadron 23's guidon at the conclusion of the challenge Nov. 24, 2009. The win is the second in a row for CS23. General Cox is the commandant of cadets. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Cadet Squadron 23 scored its second straight win for the top spot overall in the Commandant's Challenge this year.

The annual event Nov. 21-23 pitted squadron against squadron in competitions testing the Cadet Wing's physical, intellectual and mental fitness. Cadets were outbriefed Nov. 23 in Clune Arena before the long-awaited Thanksgiving break.

"We're proud of what you've done, and you should be proud," said Brig. Gen. Samuel Cox, commandant of cadets, emphasizing every squadron met the standards for all challenge events.

Events included physical fitness and field exercises with trials in marksmanship, land navigation, urban evasion, chemical suit drills, convoy maneuvers and self aid-buddy care. The evaluation portion tested cadets for room inspection, uniforms, drills and military and Academy knowledge. The Falcon Feud challenged cadets on military knowledge by squadron in a game show format, with CS23 and CS40 sharing top honors.

In other events, CS28 took squadron first place for field exercises, CS2 placed first for physical training, and CS37 won the evaluation challenges.

Winning squadrons garnered trophies and cash awards for squadron upgrades and activities. During the outbrief, top squadron individual performers received coins from General Cox.

This year's theme was "Leaders in Action." Cadet 1st Class Jonathan Cordell said events were targeted to resemble the Air Force operational aura as much as possible.

Cadet Group 3 superintendent Senior Master Sgt. Pernell Parker said he felt the challenge was very successful and that its intent was well carried out.

"The overall intensity was better this year, and the planning was more efficient with the leadership more engaged," he said.

Planning the challenge begins six months out and becomes increasingly intense when school starts for the fall semester.

Maj. Michael Kazlausky, CS12 air officer commanding, said the challenge was a time for his squadron to come together and function as a team.

"It's a great opportunity for cadets to further their leadership and officer skills," he said, nothing the challenges were a direct correlation with what the Air Force will offer cadets after graduation.

Cadet 2nd Class Jamie Lemieux of CS12 said he felt his squadron overall did better this year than last and has improved from year to year. He said one of the toughest parts of the challenge was the lack of sleep but called the Saturday afternoon break, when cadets got an unprecedented break to attend Falcons sports events, a "real morale booster."

"I think we did really well," Cadet 4th Class Nicolas Watson said of her teammates in CS1 before the results were released in Clune Arena. He added the squadron displayed a high level of motivation during the events.

Cadet Watson said probably the toughest squadron event was physical training but felt he did well individually nonetheless.

"I'm an athlete and play soccer," he explained.

This was also is the first year of the challenge for Cadet 4th Class Grace Konstanzer of CS13, who felt the physical training tests were the hardest for her personally but she said she enjoyed the urban evasion field exercises.

"It was really fun," she said. "We came together as a team, and we bonded well."

Cadet 2nd Class Trevor Boyd with the winning CS23 had his fingers crossed that the squadron could pull off another win. He served as element leader and said it was challenging to keep team members motivated.

"We won last year, and I think we performed at the same level this year," he said. "It would have been tough to come back this year and be beaten."

Challenge scores notwithstanding, Cadet Boyd added, "During the Commandant's Challenge, we act more like a family."

During his closing remarks, General Cox urged cadets to take up another personal challenge.

"Learn something, teach something, and smile every day," he said.