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41st APS Port Dawg Challenge: Team Top Dawgz takes title

An Airman hands out papers to others from a podium.

Master Sgt. Taylor Landry (center), 41st Aerial Port Squadron acting first sergeant and non-commissioned officer in charge of special handling, distributes documents to evaluators of the Port Dawg Challenge at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., Oct. 2, 2021. Landry organized this year's event that is designed to enhance and maintain the camaraderie of aerial port Airmen while promoting professionalism, leadership, training and communication between "Port Dawgs." (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Farrar)

Staff Sgt. Nicholas Willig, 41st Aerial Port Squadron air transportation craftsman, participates in the "fit to fight" portion of the Port Dawg Challenge at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., Oct. 2, 2021. This part of the fitness portion has Willig raising a heavy tire tread up to pitch it over multiple times as his teammates and evaluators observe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Farrar)

Staff Sgt. Nicholas Willig, 41st Aerial Port Squadron air transportation craftsman, participates in the "fit to fight" portion of the Port Dawg Challenge at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., Oct. 2, 2021. This part of the fitness portion has Willig raising a heavy tire tread up to pitch it over multiple times as his teammates and evaluators observe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Farrar)

An Airman bear crawls  with a heavy chain around her neck as three teammates watch.

Senior Airman Jemyra Smith, 41st Aerial Port Squadron passenger services representative, participates in the "fit to fight" portion of the Port Dawg Challenge at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., Oct. 2, 2021. Part of the fitness portion was a relay course with a team member bear-crawling with twenty pounds of chains on their shoulders to one end of the course, and performing burpees or push-ups before the next team member does the same tasks to complete the relay portion. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Farrar)

Six Airmen at a table look over a piece of paper.

Members of Team Top Dawgz, 41st Aerial Port Squadron, gather together to discuss quiz questions the team must answer in the Port Dawg Challenge event at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., Oct. 2, 2021. The team leader, Tech. Sgt. Charles Williams, air terminal operations center representative, writes the answers agreed upon by the team as part of the "fit to fight" portion of the Port Dawg Challenge. The event is organized to enhance and maintain the camaraderie of aerial port Airmen while promoting professionalism, leadership, training and communication between "Port Dawgs." (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Farrar)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --

The 41st Aerial Port Squadron’s annual Port Dawg Challenge took place over the Oct. 2-3 Unit Training Assembly here with around 50  Reserve Citizen Airmen competing to win.

Organizing this year’s event was Master Sgt. Taylor Landry, noncommissioned officer in charge of special handling and acting first sergeant of the 41st APS. 

“This is a great way for us as a squadron to figure out any shortcomings in training and also enhance our esprit de corps through friendly competition,” Landry said, “It gives an opportunity to see what we need to work on in a fun environment as opposed to just sitting around reviewing training material.”

The five teams formed this year were: Team Solo Hans, Team Rapid Fire, Team Ironclad, Team K is for Qatar, and Team Top Dawgz.

It was the very first Port Dawg Challenge for Senior Airman Jemyra Smith of Team Top Dawgz, the event’s top scoring team.

“It took me back to my (Career Development Courses) that I finished a year-and-a-half ago,” Smith said. “Some of that material started to fade, so this was a good refresher.”

The six events for the 2021 Port Dawg Challenge were: forklift driving, load pull/set up, vehicle upload, pallet buildup, and a fit-to-fight challenge with knowledge quizzes after each section.      

Landry explained that the Port Dawg Challenge is based on an event known as “the rodeo” that began in the active duty Air Force. While rodeos allow cowboys to compete in livestock riding and roping categories to improve their work skills, the Port Dawg Challenge event does the same for aerial port professionals. 

The event was adopted by the Air Force Reserve as a competition among other aerial port squadrons. The 41st APS will put their highest scoring team from their challenge into the AFRC contest coming up in April 2022. 

Landry has nearly 12 years in the APS career field now and he likes the tradition of the Port Dawg Challenge.

“I have two deployments under my belt, so I based this on things I’ve seen ‘out in the wild,’” he said.  “We’ve set this up for our young tech and staff sergeants to have an opportunity to lead in terms of doing the job and teaching the job as well.”

The first-place 41st APS Team Top Dawgz members include: Tech. Sgt. Charles Williams, air terminal operations center representative, Airman 1st Class Catherine Vu, air transportation apprentice, Staff Sgt. Nicholas Willig, air transportation craftsman, Staff Sgt. Seth Merrifield, air transportation journeyman, Tech. Sgt. Tamara Gray, air transportation craftsman, Airman 1st Class Matthew Geis, air transportation journeyman, Senior Airman Jemyra Smith, passenger services representative, Staff Sgt. Lindsey Caldwell, ATOC representative, and Senior Airman Joseph Pizzitolo, air transportation journeyman.