STERLING – For Sgt. Adam Tarbill of Sterling and 17 other Air Force special operators, walking 450 miles wasn’t enough to honor five fallen members of their command unit.
So the Air Commando Ruckers, as they call themselves, are making the hike with 50-pound rucksacks – a backpack with a metal frame that holds gear.
“We’re carrying the rucksacks to honor them because anyone can walk, but it takes somebody special to be able to walk with 50 pounds on their back for 450 miles,” said Tarbill, 26.
Five air commandos in Tarbill’s unit died last February. The walk is meant to honor them and to raise $50,000 for Special Operations Warrior Foundation’s scholarship fund, which helps children of fallen special operators attend college.
The walk had raised $8,255 by Sunday afternoon.
He and his comrades left at 9 a.m. Sunday from Hulburt Field, Fla., where Tarbill’s command is based. They will arrive Friday at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla.
When they reach MacDill, they will put five flags that were flown overseas onto a granite memorial to honor the five air commandos in their command unit who died last year. Those special operators’ names already have been added to the memorial, Tarbill said.
Tarbill is an independent medical technician in the Special Operations Forces’ medical element. This is the second year of the march and the first year Tarbill has participated.
“We’re a big family, so when one of us goes down, it affects us all directly,” Tarbill said. “We know the toll that it takes and the special type of person it takes to do our job.”
The job requires self-sacrifice and dedication, he said.
The Air Commando Ruckers walk in four teams and bring four vehicles on the trip. A team will walk for 12 miles before rotating to another team. Each person will walk at least 120 miles, and the walk will be nonstop until they reach their destination, he said.
A trail vehicle will be behind the marchers so that if anyone becomes exhausted or gets hurt, he can be replaced.
Tarbill, a 2005 graduate of Sterling High School, is the son of Cindy Williams of Rock Falls and John Tarbill of Sterling.
The Special Operations Warrior Foundation is a nonprofit organization that supports the military's special operations forces and their families through three programs:
- College scholarships for the surviving children of fallen special operations forces.
- Family services, including educational counseling.
- Wounded special operations forces support.
Quality Imports, a car dealership in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., is matching donations up to $5,000.
Go Air Commando Ruckers Facebook page for more information on the walk.
About the fallen
Lt. Col. John D. Loftis, 44, of Murray, Ky., died Feb. 25 from wounds received during an attack at the Interior Ministry in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Capt. Ryan P. Hall, 30, of Colorado Springs, Colo., Capt. Nicholas S. Whitlock, 29, of Newnan, Ga., 1st Lt. Justin J. Wilkens, 26, of Bend, Ore., and Senior Airman Julian S. Scholten, 26, of Upper Marlboro, Md., died Feb. 18 when their U-28 aircraft was involved in an accident near Camp Lemonnier, Dijbouti, Africa.