In a feat of extreme endurance, 20 operators from throughout the Air Force Special Operation Command (AFSOC) Special Tactics community will ruck an astounding 830 miles to honor their 20 Special Tactics brothers who have made the ultimate sacrifice since the War on Terror began in September 2001. The airmen will march from the Medina Annex, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, to Hurlburt Field, Florida.
Extreme physical toughness and stamina make up the core of all special operations forces (SOF). They provide the base upon which every other specialized capability is built.
The inspiration for the undertaking came after Staff Sergeant Dylan J. Elchin, a combat controller (CCT) assigned to the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, was killed by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Afghanistan in November 2018. Alongside Sergeant Elchin, two Special Forces operators—Captain Andrew Ross and Sergeant First Class Eric Emond from the 3rd Special Forces Group—and an infantryman, Sergeant Jason McClary, were killed by the blast.
The 20 operators will be divided into 10 teams of two Special Tactics airmen. The whole team will depart from the Medina Annex in the early morning hours of February 22 and plan to arrive at Hurlburt Field on the afternoon of March 4. Consequently, they have planned for a joint-aching 75-mile pace for the duration of the 11 days. However, after the first five miles, teams will rotate, each rucking 12 miles.
Such commemorative events are becoming a tradition in the Special Tactics community. This will be the fifth march; the first Special Tactics Memorial March occurred in 2009 in memory of Staff Sergeant Timothy Davis. The men will carry a memorial baton, which will be engraved with the following names of fallen Special Tactics airmen:
- Master Sgt. William McDaniel of Greenville, Ohio, Special Tactics Pararescueman, Feb. 22, 2002
- Staff Sgt. Juan Ridout of Oak Harbor, Special Tactics Pararescueman, Feb. 22, 2002
- Master Sgt. John Chapman of Windsor Locks, Connecticut, Special Tactics Combat Controller, Mar. 4, 2002
- Senior Airman Jason Cunningham of Camarillo, California, Special Tactics Pararescueman, Mar. 4, 2002
- Staff Sgt. Scott Sather of Clio, Michigan, Special Tactics Combat Controller, April 8, 2003
- Derek Argel of Lompoc, California, Special Tactics Officer, May 30, 2005
- Jeremy Fresques of Clarksdale, Arizona, Special Tactics Officer, May 30, 2005
- Staff Sgt. Casey Crate of Spanaway, Washington, Special Tactics Combat Controller, May 30, 2005
- Senior Airman Adam Servais of Onalaska, Wisconsin, Special Tactics Combat Controller, Aug. 19, 2006
- Technical Sgt. Scott Duffman of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Special Tactics Pararescueman, Feb. 18, 2007
- Technical Sgt. William Jefferson of Norfolk, Virginia, Special Tactics Combat Controller, Mar. 22, 2008
- Staff Sgt. Timothy Davis of Aberdeen, Washington, Special Tactics Combat Controller, Feb. 20, 2009
- Senior Airman Daniel Sanchez of El Paso, Texas, Special Tactics Combat Controller, Sep. 16, 2010
- Senior Airman Mark Forester of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Special Tactics Combat Controller, Sep. 29, 2010
- Technical Sgt. John Brown of Tallahassee, Special Tactics Pararescueman, Aug. 6, 2011
- Technical Sgt. Daniel Zerbe of York, Pennsylvania, Special Tactics Pararescueman, Aug. 6, 2011
- Staff Sgt. Andrew Harvell of Long Beach, California, Special Tactics Combat Controller, Aug. 6, 2011
- Matthew Roland of Lexington, Kentucky, Special Tactics Officer, Aug. 26, 2015
- Staff Sgt. Forrest Sibley of Pensacola, Special Tactics Combat Controller, Aug. 26, 2015
- Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin of Hookstown, Pennsylvania, Special Tactics Combat Controller, Nov. 27, 2018
AFSOC is comprised of pararescuemen, combat controllers, tactical air control party airmen, and special operations weather technicians, though the lattermost military occupational specialty (MOS) is soon to be replaced by the new special reconnaissance MOS.
This article was written by Stavros Atlamazoglou
U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Faith Brodkorb