By Steve Warns, AFIMSC Public Affairs / Published November 27, 2017
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —
The Air Force Alpha Warrior Final Battle Nov. 11 at the Alpha Warrior Proving Ground at Retama Park in Selma, Texas, became a de-facto family reunion for several U.S. Air Force Academy graduates.
Capt. Jeff Schaefer, a civil engineering instructor at the Academy, competed along with his wife, Capt. Rachel Schaefer, a program manager with the Air Force Life Cycle and Management Center at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. Jeff finished first in the men’s division with a time of 6 minutes, 58.3 seconds, while Rachel finished third in the women’s division in 12:27.4 minutes.
Rachel said she first heard of Alpha Warrior during a spin class at the Peterson fitness center.
“I came out of the class and I saw Kacy Catanzaro (of NBC’s ‘American Ninja Warrior’),” said Rachel, a former pole vaulter at the Academy. “I found out that they were having a competition that weekend. Jeff and I went, and we were told they were coming back to do the regional qualifying competition.”
Because Rachel and Jeff are fitness enthusiasts, avid rock climbers and also practice acro-yoga, a combination of acrobatics and yoga, competing in Air Force Alpha Warrior was a logical choice to test their readiness and resiliency.
The Schaefers competed in the Peterson regional where Rachel won the women’s division, while Jeff finished third in the men’s division. The men’s winner there was Capt. Cale Simmons, Rachel’s brother.
Simmons, a former Air Force World Class Athlete program member and 2016 Olympian in the pole vault, finished second in the Final Battle in 7:25.2 minutes. Simmons, a contracts manager with Air Force Space and Missile Command at Peterson AFB, often joins his sister and brother-in-law for rock climbing excursions.
“It just gives us a reason to climb harder together,” said Jeff, who noted the competition between he and Simmons is friendly and good-natured.
Jeff also noted how Alpha Warrior hones the four pillars of Comprehensive Airman Fitness – physical, mental, social and spiritual.
“You can always get better,” Jeff said. “If you’re trying to work through an obstacle, sometimes you’ll fall off that path toward improving. But once it clicks, you can look back and say ‘I got it now!’”
Joining the trio from Colorado was Cale’s identical twin brother Capt. Rob Simmons, a C-17A pilot with the 16th Airlift Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina. En route to complete training at Altus AFB, Okla., Rob made a detour and stopped in San Antonio to watch his family members compete.
Rob had planned to compete in the Charleston regional, but broke his right leg while kiteboarding and underwent surgery.
He was still able to run the course for fun, along with Jeff and Rachel, after the competition was decided.
“It felt fine,” Rob said with a smile after running the course for the first time since his leg surgery.
The family reunion turn into an alma mater reunion when the siblings ran into former Air Force Academy track and field team mates.
Capt. Lesly Palicia, a bilateral cyberengagement chief with 5th Air Force and her husband, Capt. Noah Palicia, a C-130J instructional pilot with the 36th Airlift Squadron at Yokota Air Base Japan, also competed in the Final Battle with Lesly finishing 14th in the women’s competition and Noah finishing seventh in the men’s.
For the entire Air Force family, the Alpha Warrior program as a whole, allows Airmen to come together as friends or coworkers to encourage and challenge each other to complete the obstacles or improve their times, which in turn achieves greater resiliency at home station and while deployed.
The Alpha Warrior program will continue to expand in 2018 with Battle Rigs and Battle Stations being delivered to bases not included in the initial rollout of 41 installations.
For more on Air Force Alpha Warrior, visit www.myairforcelife.com.