Rugged race to raise funds
Stars and Stripes May 28, 2008
RAF MILDENHALL — Sometimes helping out can be fun. And a bit extreme.
That’s the mindset pushing five England-based Air Force officers who will take part in The Hebridean Challenge 2008, which takes place June 29 to July 4.
Set within the rugged Hebridean islands off Scotland’s west coast, the six-day race will see participants negotiate a 700-kilometer course through the archipelago with kayaks, bikes and their own leg power.
When they’re not navigating mountains, waterways and beaches, teams also will get the fun task of cramming all their gear into one vehicle and camping out each night.
Besides being an awesomely extreme and unique challenge, the officers involved also want to raise money for a fallen comrade, said the team’s leader, Capt. Jake Miller of the 352nd Special Operations Group’s 321st Special Tactics Squadron.
"I’ve been looking for a reason to get back up there and do something," he said.
While he had wanted to explore the Hebrides before, Miller said the death of combat controller Tech. Sgt. William Jefferson earlier this year in Afghanistan spurred him to action.
Jefferson was an instructor during Miller’s time at combat control school.
Through the race, Miller and his buddies are raising money for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which helps the families of fallen special ops troops, regardless of service branch.
Miller said he isn’t looking for huge donations from people. If folks would sacrifice the cost of one night out and instead donate it to the foundation, it would go a long way.
"It’s something I strongly believe in," he said.
Miller noted the foundation covers any military member lost in a special ops mission, regardless of whether they fall under the special ops job category.
Other officers involved include 1st Lt. Serge Mettes of the 501st Combat Support Wing, 1st Lt. Peter Doyle of the 422nd Air Base Group and 352nd Capt. Matt Allen.
Another participant, 100th Air Refueling Wing 1st Lt. Bethany Salinas said she’s excited and a bit nervous about the trip.
"I haven’t seen Scotland yet and wanted to go," she said. "It’s supposed to be really rugged."
Salinas, who is married to Mettes, said she ran marathons before but nothing like the "Heb" challenge.
"It was cause and effect, like, ‘Hey, let’s do the Heb challenge and while we’re at it raise some money,’ " she said.
Sometimes, charity and extreme adventure can go hand in hand.
"The special ops guys do this stuff for a living," she said, laughing. "We’re just trying to keep up with them."