Special Tactics Airmen Complete 800-mile March
By Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew Bates
Special to American Forces Press Service
HURLBURT FIELD, Fla., Oct. 19, 2009 After walking more than 800 miles through five states, 12 special tactics airmen arrived here Oct. 16, officially completing a memorial march for their fallen comrades.
Air Force Staff Sgts. Jesse Schrader and David White, both from the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla., walk a stretch of road in Navarre, Fla., Oct. 16, 2009. The airmen were part of a 12-man team that marched from Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, to Hurlburt Field to honor fallen special tactics airmen. The journey covered more than 800 miles and five states. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The marchers -- several combat controllers and pararescuemen and one combat weatherman -- split into six two-man teams and walked day and night to honor 12 special tactics airmen killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
During the march, five teams rested while one continued the march, averaging nearly 20 miles before being spelled. Each marcher carried a 50-pound rucksack and a baton engraved with the name of a fallen special tactics airman.
The 12 airmen reunited just outside the base and walked the final five miles as a team.
"This walk shows that with Air Force special operations, you are never forgotten," said Air Force Master Sgt. Ken Huhman, one of the event's coordinators and a marcher from the 342nd Training Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.
Several family members of the 12 special tactics airmen being memorialized joined the marchers on the final five-mile stretch.
"I feel very honored," said Sally Sheldon, mother of Air Force Staff Sgt. Tim Davis, a combat controller killed in Afghanistan in February. "They've been so good to me, and I'm very proud of all these young men. They've made me a part of their family."
The memorial march's route, which began at Lackland and ended here, was chosen for a reason. Special tactics training begins at Lackland, and combat controllers complete their training here before joining their first teams.
"It was a long walk," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Jesse Schrader, a marcher from the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron here. "My feet are covered in blisters and are numb, but it's worth it. This is something we wanted to do to remember our friends and teammates that were killed."
The memorial march also was organized to help to raise awareness for Air Force specialties such as combat control and pararescue, and to increase awareness of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. The foundation provides assistance to families of fallen special operations servicemembers.
(Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew Bates serves with Defense Media Activity San Antonio.)