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Patriotic Article
By USAF SSgt. James M. Hodgman

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Airmen Run Miles In Memoriam
(October 24, 2010)

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OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. (10/21/2010 - AFNS) -- For many people, running 26.2 miles may seem like a crazy idea. But, for the nine members of the 55th Force Support Squadron's running team, it's just another challenge to overcome.

The team, formed in July, after some members of the 55th FSS expressed interest in running the Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio Marathon Nov. 14.
Members of the 55th Force Support Squadron marathon running team pose for a group photo Oct. 8, 2010, outside the field house at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.
Members of the 55th Force Support Squadron marathon running team pose for a group photo Oct. 8, 2010, outside the field house at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.
  In late July, a squadron-wide e-mail went out asking for people to join the team, train together and run the marathon in November. Before long, the team had nine members, ranging in rank from Airman 1st class to captain, and even a coach from the 55th Security Forces Squadron.

Master Sgt. Johnathan M. Ward, a Personnel Reliability Program monitor for the 55th SFS, and also the team coach, is a certified Marathon Maniac, having completed 13 marathons. To meet the minimum requirement to join the Marathon Maniac club, one must run two marathons in 16 days or three marathons within 90 days. Sergeant Ward has completed five marathons this year. The San Antonio marathon will be his sixth.
Sergeant Ward e-mails the team regularly with training tips and a running plan for each individual member. He also provides training advice and feedback to each member when the team meets for long runs.

Another member of the team, Capt. Alejandra Czerniak, the manpower and personnel flight commander, has completed five marathons traveling as far away as Boston and Dublin, Ireland.

However, for most members of the team, the San Antonio marathon will be their first.

"I think our goal is just to finish," said Staff Sgt. Nina Lawson, the NCO in charge of installation personnel readiness and one of the team's leaders.

"It's not necessarily to finish at a certain time or be the fastest, but it's a personal goal to accomplish something that so few people say they've accomplished," Sergeant Lawson said.

The team's fastest runner, Airman 1st Class David J. Smith, a fitness specialist, shares Sergeant Lawson's sentiment.

"I've never actually run a marathon and I just want to run (one) to say I did it," Airman Smith said.

A veteran of numerous 5-kilometer races, Airman Smith said finishing the marathon is his ultimate goal, and running with his fellow Airmen is helping him meet that challenge.

"I normally only run 10 miles on the weekends without a set plan," he said. "Training as a team is teaching me to keep running and run for longer distances. It's also (improving) my conditioning as we increase our mileage every week."

Each team member runs alone from four to five times a week. Runs Monday through Friday consist of easy runs between four and six miles, as well as hill and speed training. The team meets on Sundays for long runs.

On Oct. 3, the team completed its longest run to date --18 miles at the Wabash Trace Nature Trail in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

After the run, several members talked about running for more than just themselves. Now, they're running to honor the lives and memories of others.

Airman 1st Class Wilson Delos Trino, a force management operations technician, is running to honor Fran Pritchard, a former civilian employee who passed away earlier this year because of cancer.

Airman Delos Trino said running in honor of Ms. Pritchard's memory has been life-changing for him.

"When I talked to the people she worked with and I saw their eyes and how happy (they were) to know I'm running in honor of her, that kind of touched my heart," he said.

Senior Airman Brianne Bishop, a retentions technician, and Airman 1st Class Jarvis Cobb, an installation readiness journeyman, are running in honor of retired Tech. Sgt. Gary Snyder, who recently lost his battle with cancer.

Sergeant Snyder's wife, Heidi, a 55th FSS financial services officer, was so moved by both Airmen's desire to run for her husband that she sponsored them both, covering their marathon entry fees.

"Heidi Snyder is a really sweet lady, and when I first got here her husband was going through a lot of problems," Airman Cobb said, "I really didn't know her at that time, but over the past two years working with her, I've gotten to know her. When she asked to sponsor us for our run, (that) was a big thing.

"When she looked at us, she said, 'you're gonna do this, you're gonna finish it,'" Airman Cobb said. "Knowing someone is supporting you for doing something for someone they loved, (that's) amazing."

Every member on the team has a personal incentive for running this marathon.

Staff Sgt. Yaneth Tebo, the NCOIC of promotions and a team leader, is running for human rights. Airman 1st Class Adam M. Dilley, an assignment counselor, is running for his grandparents and Sergeant Lawson is running for any servicemember who has ever been a prisoner of war or reported as missing in action.

"I run because others can't," she said.

Article and photo by USAF SSgt. James M. Hodgman
55th Wing Public Affairs
Copyright 2010

Reprinted from Air Force News Service

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