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Face of Defense: Air Force Pilot Chases Olympic Dreams

By Air Force Airman 1st Class Christopher Thornbury DoD News Features, Defense Media Activity

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MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan., Sept. 4, 2015 — It's early morning and the sun is bright and warm but the air is still cool. Sitting on the maroon-colored track, he slides his bright red running shoes onto his feet, grabbing each lace and tying a knot. After preparation, he begins his workout.

Air Force Capt. Daniel Castle, a 349th Air Refueling Squadron pilot, is one of five airmen selected from throughout the Air Force to participate in the World Class Athlete Program, which allows service members of all branches to train as their primary duty.

Castle will spend the next year training to run the men’s 1,500-meter in the 2016 Olympics.

Olympic Dreams

Competing for a spot on an Olympic team is one of Castle’s lifelong dreams, he said.

Castle will be heading back to his alma mater, the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to train at the U.S. Olympic Complex with his former coach. Juli Benson, an academy cross country head coach and track and field assistant coach, specializes in middle and distance runners.

Over the next year, Castle will run nine to 10 times a week, an hour to an hour and a half at a time, totaling 70 to 80 miles each week. He will combine long runs ranging from 15-18 miles, shorter four- to five-mile runs at his aerobic threshold and sprints of 200 to 400 meters with weightlifting three to four times a week.

More Than a Friendly Competition

Running has been a part of Castle’s daily routine for several years now. Even with the hectic duty day of a KC-135 Stratotanker pilot, he made sure he ran each day. He often ran during lunch breaks or at 10 and 11 p.m. if the day didn't flex to his schedule.

His highly competitive running career started in college. His senior year, he set the academy record and placed 15th in the NCAA and 20th in the U.S.

Running is more than just a friendly competition, he said.

"Running is something I'm very passionate about, not only for the chance to compete," Castle said. "It's my conduit to decompress from all the stresses in life and I believe in being world class by pushing myself to do the best in everything that I do."

After graduating college, he didn't slow down. Within a year, he completed his master's degree while running 40 to 60 miles each week.

Air Force Core Values

"Determination, the idea of chasing dreams and the Air Force core values have built Castle into the airman he is today," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Shalamar Coleman, the 22nd Mission Support Group noncommissioned officer in charge of group administration.

The Olympics are a year away, but in the meantime, Castle will represent the U.S. this October in Mungyeong, Korea, at the 6th CISM World Military Games, an international military competition held every four years.

Aside from his goals as a runner, Castle said he plans to continue his Air Force career by becoming an instructor at the academy so he can inspire younger airmen to chase their dreams.

"I would love to be able to teach and mentor the next generation of Air Force officers," Castle said. "[I want] to fuel the fire of living passionately."

His drive and desire to improve himself and others comes from his beliefs in the Air Force core values, he said.

'"Excellence in all we do.' I really believe in that," Castle said. "I believe that it is the foundation to a life that is worth living, which has helped drive me to continue running despite five deployments [and] many temporary duty assignments. ... Making time to work out and run every day under the foundation of excellence is what has allowed me this chance, six years later."