Westover Defender Earns Rare Accomplishment

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Stephen Underwood
  • 439th Airlift Wing

U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Benjamin Duga, a Citizen Airman Defender with the 439th Security Forces Squadron, has an accomplishment only one other person in the entire Air Force Reserve can claim.

Duga, an AGR member, attended and successfully graduated from the rigorous Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course at Fort Bliss, Texas.

The 12-week school consisted of hands-on exercises and classroom study. Throughout the program students were trained in distance firing, threat discrimination, firing around targets, nuclear security operations, mounted and dismounted operations, area security and law and order operations.

Duga said he was tested both mentally and physically.  In fact, of the 34 Defenders from bases all over the world who attended, only 25 graduated from the course.

The goal of the course is to allow graduates the ability to go back to their home stations and become key assets in helping train fellow Defenders.

“It’s the most humbling and amazing thing for me to represent the small percentage that have completed this training,” Duga said. “To be part of the less than 1% who have this training is pretty awesome.” 

Out of the 38,000 Defenders in the entire force, less than 170 have successfully graduated from the course. Duga, along with Tech Sgt. Eric Sowinski from Pittsburgh Air Reserve Station, Pa., are the only two in the Air Force Reserve Command to have completed it.

The application process is highly competitive. Duga had to get selected by both AFRC and then the Weapons and Tactics Council Selection Board.

“On the AGR side it’s about problem solving and being able to solve any problem set we face on a daily basis,” Duga said. “Like getting into eight-hour shifts, or how are we training our Airmen to understand OUI procedures, or how are we preparing our Airmen to shoot better. I have been introduced to resources that allow for me to develop our AGR side far more.”

Duga said the course also taught him how to be a better instructor for his fellow Citizen Airmen. The course teaches leadership skills such as public speaking and mentorship.  “It’s cool that someone can teach off a PowerPoint slide, but it’s really about developing us further so that someone can teach off the cuff,” he said. “This course allows you to know the material intimately and be able to teach it in an effective way. The impact this program will have on our unit will be phenomenal and hopefully make the unit operate even more efficiently.”

The 439 SFS plans on making Duga an important teaching asset to the unit, ensuring the skills he learned can be taught to other Defenders.

“We would like for him to teach our Airmen the important skills he learned,” said Staff Sgt. Jessica Wilkins, emergency communications center controller.  “It’s an amazing accomplishment and we are all very proud of him. While we’re still deciding how to utilize his unique skillset going forward, we know he is an invaluable asset to our team.”