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Patriotic Article
Military
By USAF SSgt. Matthew Bates

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Special Tactics Airmen Complete 800-Mile March
(October 22, 2009)

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HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (10/16/2009 - AFNS) -- 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.
Twelve Airmen complete their last leg of a memorial ruck sack march through Ft. Walton Beach, Fla. to Hurlburt Field, Oct. 16, 2009, to honor 12 fallen special tactics teammates killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The march began Oct. 6, 2009, at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, and encompassed more than 800 miles and five states.
Twelve Airmen complete their last leg of a memorial ruck sack march through Ft. Walton Beach, Fla. to Hurlburt Field, Oct. 16, 2009, to honor 12 fallen special tactics teammates killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The march began Oct. 6, 2009, at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, and encompassed more than 800 miles and five states. U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios
The marchers, made up of several combat controllers and pararescuemen and one combat weatherman, split up 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 ruck sack 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 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 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 AFB and ended here, was chosen for a reason. Special tactics training begins at Lackland AFB and combat controllers complete their training here before joining their first teams.

"It was a long walk," said 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 was also organized to help 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.

By USAF SSgt. Matthew Bates
Defense Media Activity-San Antonio
Copyright 2009

Reprinted from Air Force News Service

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