Story by SSgt Melanie Hutto on 06/19/2017The roaring crowd gradually wanes, falling on deaf ears, as the last shred of adrenalin jolts through his veins all the while peripheral vision narrows in, fixating on the opponent, and with the strike of the referee's hands they advance into the tie-up position.
Standing at 5 feet 6 inches, weighing 155 pounds, Airman Sergio Miranda, a 35th Security Forces Squadron entry controller, paled in comparison to his opponent, 5 feet 11 inches and 200lbs, however, it didn't psych him out.
"We went into three overtimes in addition to the three matches we each won prior to the final round," Miranda said. "At first I just felt relieved [when it was over]; I was physically exhausted. Overall, it [the win] was a tremendous feeling. I can't put into words how happy I am."
A headlock was the final position that earned Miranda the belt and title of the 2017 Combatives Champion during the Defenders Challenge at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.
The Tucson, Arizona, native is no stranger to combat sports. Miranda began wrestling in fourth grade and continued through his senior year. Miranda explained how the match in Guam brought back memories from when he was young and competed at the national level.
Upon graduation he stayed true to his passion and coached his former high school wrestling team, but ultimately enlisted in the Air Force two years later with his sights set on security forces.
"I wanted to be a cop," said Miranda. "Being security forces filled my want to serve my country while still accomplishing my desired career path, which incorporated training similar to wrestling."
Miranda and four other 35th SFS members, including a military working dog duo, volunteered to participate in the second annual Security Forces Advanced Combat Skills Assessment, also referred to as the Defenders Challenge, held at the Security Forces Regional Training Center, June 4 to 9.
"The combative challenge was the concluding and only individual event," Miranda said. "Being selected for it was nothing short of chance. My performance factored into the overall scoring of all the team events that took place throughout the week."
The competition was broken into five categories including weapons, tactics, combat fitness, mental and physical challenge and MWDs. Each station conducted evaluations based on time to determine the best marksmen and combat tactics teams in the Pacific Air Forces security forces.
"This was my second time competing in the event," said Airman 1st Class Andrea Dickel, a 35th SFS entry controller. "I told the RTC personnel to make it more challenging and this year they delivered. I pushed our endurance and I hope it continues to progress."
The teammates who accompanied Miranda and Dickel included Tech. Sgt. Mike Yurco, Senior Airmen Derrick Turner and Jared Shannon and a MWD duo Staff Sgt. Victoria Dames and MWD Elvis. They operated as a team and strategically out-performed eight other security forces units including an Army unit.
In the end, the 35th SFS team earned the Advanced Combat Skills trophy.
"We trained 30 days prior to the start of the event," Dickel said. "We pushed our mental and physical being to the extreme and grew stronger as a team. We had the drive to beat our components, but more than anything, we had fun during every course."
The Defenders Challenge provided the Airmen with invaluable interaction with other security forces members with the exchange of tactics and skills between those in attendance.
"I am truly inspired by the performance of our defenders at the Advanced Combat Skills Assessment," said Maj. Patrick Gordon, the 35th SFS commander. "The dedication of this unit establishing a culture of precision, agility, strength and tactical prowess has a large part to play in their victory. While this is a huge morale booster, the end result of the sharing of techniques and procedures with other PACAF bases will have a definitive impact on the 35th SFS."