Special warfare airmen honor their fallen with 24-hour run, march in South Korea
By DAVID CHOI | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 3, 2021
CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — Dozens of special warfare airmen weathered heavy wind and rain for their 10th annual 24-hour Challenge Run last week at the largest U.S. military base on the Korean Peninsula.
The event, hosted Thursday by the 604th Air Support Operations Squadron out of Camp Humphreys, honored the 12 members of the Air Force’s Tactical Air Control Party who have died in combat or during training since 1989.
Tactical air control specialists coordinate air strikes from the ground and typically embed with units from other military branches. Candidates undergo an intense training regimen that includes the military’s survival, evasion, resistance and escape school at Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington.
“It’s a good time to get out of the office and really honor the fallen, and those who have come before us,” Capt. Jason Hoist, a tactical air control officer, said on Monday.
“It really brings everyone together,” Hoist said. “You usually see people smiling, running and challenging themselves in a lot of different ways.”
Airmen rotated in shifts throughout the 24-hour period so that at least one of them carried the Tactical Air Control Party guidon. In addition to running, several airmen marched while carrying 35 pounds of gear. One marched 50 miles during the event, the longest distance from a single person carrying additional weight, while another airman ran for 52 miles without gear.
The run became “pretty hectic” as heavy rain fell on Humphreys around midnight, according to Tech Sgt. Eric Hanson.
“We had to tie things down because the tents we got had blown away,” Hanson said. “But I knew the guys were going to come together and we weren’t going to let the flag stop moving.”
“We’re all driven with a higher purpose and we have a high drive to continue on with the mission,” he said. “It’s just the way it’s always been for us from the beginning. It’s a pretty challenging career field to get into.”
Hoist, who marched with additional gear, said “it almost felt like a hurricane for a couple hours.”
“It wasn’t comfortable, but the job that we do isn’t comfortable,” he said. “You have to respond to the climate because it’s not going to change for you, whether you like it or not.”
The 607th Air Support Operations Group, the squadron’s higher headquarters, will also be hosting a 24-hour Tactical Air Control Party Challenge Run on May 20 at Osan Air Base. Service members from all branches and military spouses are encouraged to join the event.