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Columbus AFB Alpha Warrior aims for victory in final DOD competition

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jake Jacobsen
  • 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

Alpha Warrior competitions are the military’s version of the courses seen on the TV show “American Ninja Warrior,” where athletes complete various obstacles competing to finish with the best time.

Second Lt. Michelle Strickland, 37th Flying Training Squadron student pilot, recently advanced to the 2019 Inter Service Alpha Warrior Final Battle competition Sept. 12 and 14 at Retama Park in Selma, Texas.

“I want to be able to represent Columbus AFB and the Air Force itself against the other branches of the military but also as a vegan athlete I want to show that you can be fit and fast while eating in a way that is good for you and the environment,” Strickland said.

Strickland landed this selection through her achievements at prior competitions starting at the local level.

She placed first in the female category during the Columbus AFB competition and qualified for the regional competition at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, in June. This was one of 20 Air Force regional competitions worldwide, and she once again finished in first place.

After regionals Strickland went to the Air Force Eastern super-regional competition at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, in July, one of five competitions worldwide, three in the U.S. (East Coast, West Coast, and Central), one in Asia and one in Europe.

Twelve competitors, six male and six female, competed in each super-regional competition. Only four competitors completed the course, with Strickland being one of them. However, she not only completed the course but came out as the top female in all the Air Force super-regional competitions around the globe.

“Her personal motivation has been something that is unparalleled,” said 2nd Lt. Jacob Nelson, 14th Student Squadron student pilot. “You just don’t see the energy that she puts in everyday in many other people. There is no doubt in my mind she is going to reach the final stage and help the Air Force team to victory.”

The final battle competition will encompass an entire parking lot with about 10 structures containing obstacles for the warriors to navigate. Some challenges the warriors might face include getting across a jungle of poles where their grip strength will be important, hiking up and down a structure to get to the other side with weights attached to them, low crawls, giant hurdles and more.

The first part of the final battle competition will be Sept. 12 where each respective branch will compete to see who their top six members, three male and three females, for each branch will be. This is where Strickland will battle other top finishers from the Air Force super-regional events and will try to make the final team and go onto battle the other military branches.

After the top warriors emerge and the final teams, consisting of three males and three females, are decided each branch of the U.S. military will go against each other to see which triumphs in the second part of the final battle competition Sept. 14.

Alpha Warrior hasn’t been on Strickland’s radar very long but since Strickland started her journey in May 2019 with the local competition on Columbus AFB she has repeatedly proven that she is a prime athlete ready to compete in the final battle.

Strickland said she has always been into sports, and with her father being a Navy SEAL, she grew up doing a lot of fitness activities to include sports like soccer, water polo, martial arts and rugby.

Strickland’s training regimen is tailored around her sporadic schedule as a student pilot, but she still tries to find time to spend at least an hour in the gym doing pushups, weighted dips, pull ups and lifting weights. On other days she goes to the training rig on Columbus AFB to practice on the Alpha Warrior equipment available.

“I want to get into the final battle and be one of the three females to help the Air Force win the final battle against the other branches,” Strickland said. “I want to be able to work cohesively as a team to get us all to the end while also getting my name out there.”

Strickland’s primary focus is working on becoming a fighter pilot and wants to fly the F-35 Lightning II. She said she firmly believes physical fitness is necessary when becoming a fighter pilot because of the physical stress when maneuvering under Gs. To enhance her future skills she wants to get as fit as possible and maintain that throughout her career.