333rd TRS Spartans skirmish for first station assignments

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Stephan Coleman
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
The newly-graduated Spartans, donning red capes and wielding padded weapons, pair off to duel in a tournament of tactics and strength. Pig roasts on the fire. The crowd cheers for each victor, and eventually, the tournament champion.

This was the scene at the 333rd Training Squadron undergraduate cyber warfare training class 13-024 as they held a unique "Drop Night" on Nov. 21 to reveal duty assignments to the officer's who passed the course.

"A drop night is a tradition taken from pilot graduations," said Lt. Col. Whitney McCloud, 333rd TRS commander. "It offers the students an environment to decompress as well as receive their assignments in a way they'll never forget. It's something they and their families can walk away from and be proud of."

The winner of the bracket-style tournament receives his or her new assignment, which is held as secret until the event, before the rest of their classmates.

In this case, 2nd Lt. Amanda Steel won the competition and had her assignment handed to her by visiting Lt. Gen. Michael Basla, Chief, Information Dominance and Chief Information Officer, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C.

"I'm thrilled," said Steel, who received an assignment to Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., exactly what she wanted "The training was tough, often I had my head filled with more information than I thought possible, but it's all worth it."

Obtaining an assignment comes in a few steps. First, there's the six-month, intensive course to pass. Then, graduating students rank a list of possible assignments, only half of which are actually available, and the 33rd TRS gets the privilege of choosing the assignments for them, said McCloud.

Finally receiving an assignment is a relief, said 2nd Lt. Jake Swank, 333rd TRS student.
"The course is very intense and the pressure of passing is only increased as time goes on," he added. "Failing or falling behind means losing your classmates, and it takes the whole team working together to make it through the course."

The Spartans lined up and received their assignments after Steel, each revealed on the back of a shield presented to them by members of the squadron, chiefs, and even Brig. Gen. Patrick Higby, 81st Training Wing commander.

The unique spin on "Drop Night" was decided by the students, who are free to choose the theme, and supported by the Top III, as well as the 333rd TRS. Family and friends were invited for the festivities, food and celebration.

"We went above and beyond for this event," said Capt. Andru Miller, 333rd TRS student and master of ceremonies for the event. "We wanted it to be a special experience."

The graduates deserved a special celebration, said McCloud.

"I have every confidence that the population depends on the cyber defense that these graduates will provide," McCloud said.