By Senior Airman Ashley Nicole Taylor, 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs / Published July 25, 2014
Tactical air control party Airmen with the 3rd Air Support Operations Squadron at Fort Wainwright and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, ruck along the Denali Highway July 14-18, 2014, between Paxson and Cantwell, Alaska. The Airmen raised over $5,000 for the TACP Association and rucked a total of 275 miles in remembrance of fallen comrades. (Courtesy photo/Senior Airman Stephan Phan)
Tactical air control party Airmen with the 3rd Air Support Operations Squadron assigned to Fort Wainwright and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, complete memorial push-ups after a 275 mile ruck, July 18, 2014, near Paxson, Alaska. The memorial push-ups were offered after four and a half days of rucking along the Denali Highway in remembrance of their fallen TACP brothers. (Courtesy photo/Senior Airman Stephan Phan)
EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska (AFNS) --
People driving along the Denali Highway here July 14-18, may have seen a group of people hiking along the side of the road in uniform, carrying large backpacks.
Tactical air control party members from the 3rd Air Support Operations Squadron at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Fort Wainwright, Alaska, spent the week trekking across 275 miles of Alaska's rugged terrain.
What passersby didn't see were the blisters the hikers suffered, the memories they carried and, most importantly, their reason for taking to the road.
"This was a memorial ruck in remembrance of some of our fallen comrades and the sacrifices that people who put on this beret have made, as well as current operations such as Iraq and Afghanistan," said Senior Airman Drew Lumpkin, a joint terminal attack controller assigned to the 3rd ASOS. "Camaraderie is also another thing we want to work on, since we're a split detachment we wanted to spend time with our brothers from (Elmendorf) since we don't normally get to see them."
The 275 mile ruck started five miles north of Paxson and followed the Denali Highway to Cantwell where the Airmen turned around to make their way back to Paxson.
"The importance of 275 is that it used to be our career field identifier before we adopted Air Force specialty codes," Lumpkin said. "To avoid serious injuries, we split up the trek in 10 mile legs, so individually we averaged 50-60 miles a person."
The group's initial goal was to raise $3,000, but they surpassed it raising over $5,000.
"All the money goes toward the TACP Association, which is set up for our career field to help us keep in touch and allows money to go straight to families that are affected by a loss," Lumpkin said.
According to Lumpkin, money raised for the association will help families who lost a loved one, by paying for scholarships, groceries and other needs.
For the last two miles, all members joined together to reach the 275 mile marker, but that didn't mean it was time to kick off the shoes and relax. The Airmen took it even farther.
"The memorial push-ups were the icing on the cake for me," said Senior Airman Matthew Rainey, a joint terminal attack controller assigned to the 3rd ASOS. "After four and a half days of guys sacrificing their bodies and pushing their limits, then watching them give their last bit of strength for our TACP brothers who sacrificed so much more -- it was an amazing feeling.
"I'm pretty positive this is something that will become a recurring event throughout the years.” Rainey continued. “I know this is something the older TACP's used to do back in the day and hopefully we can bring it back. This ruck was the first time we did this in quite a few years and it ended up working really smoothly.”