HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- Fifteen Air Force Special Operations
Command special tactics Airmen, along with two from Air Combat Command,
embarked on a 10-day, 812-mile march to memorialize 17 fellow special
tactics Airmen who died in combat.
Marching from Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, to Hurlburt Field, Fla.,
these Combat Controllers and pararescuemen each carried a 50-pound
rucksack and a baton engraved with the name of a fallen Airman.
The Tim Davis Memorial march only takes place if a special tactics
Airmen is lost during a fiscal year. This year, the 24th Special
Tactics Squadron, at Pope Field, N.C., lost three Airmen in a CH-47
Chinook crash Aug. 6 in Afghanistan.
The march is named after Staff Sgt. Tim Davis, who was killed in 2009
from an improvised explosive device. His sister, Noel Davis, joined the
team half-way through the march hoisting a 50-pound rucksack on her
"I love coming down and participating in the rucksack march," Davis
said. "All these guys remind me of my brother in how they act and their
sense of humor. I love being surrounded by them. I choose to wear the
50-pound ruck because Tim would expect no less. Tim and all the other
amazing men who gave all will never be forgotten and special tactics
just doesn't say that -- they mean it."
The Airmen marched through Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and
Florida. They said all along the route they were greeted with
tremendous support from school children, community members, veterans,
police and firemen. There were people in tears as the American flag
passed and people in tears as they remembered their lost loved ones.
One of the marchers, Airman 1st Class Mike Thompson, a Combat
Controller from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron at Pope Field, said
he didn't know the men but knew he wanted to be part of the march
"It's just important to me to show a lot of our families who have lost
loved ones that we still remember those men," Thompson said. "I think
it means a lot to them for us to be out here."
His most memorable experience on the march is when they walked by a
retirement home and the employees brought out retirees and veterans. He
said just hearing some of their stories meant a lot to him.
Another marcher, Senior Airman Jordan Dehlbom, a pararescueman with the
48th Rescue Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., said he
cannot imagine what the families experience when they lose someone.
"I just hope that, whether the families are involved in this or not,
the message gets to them some way that their loved one, their son,
their husband, their brother, whatever he was, is not forgotten,"
Dehlbom said. "He is always remembered and every day somebody who
worked with him, that knew him and even people who didn't know him,
talk about him. He lives on through that memory."
The marchers made it home Oct. 26 and were greeted by more than 300
family members, friends and comrades who marched the last 4.6 miles
home to Hurlburt Field.
A ceremony was held to turn over the batons for display in the Special
Tactics Training Squadron Hall of Heroes. Accepting the batons from
each marcher was the commander of the STTS, Maj. Travis Woodworth, who
said it is pretty "audacious" to march 812 miles.
"A lot of people will ask, 'Why do they walk 812 miles,'" Woodworth
said. "I guess a better question to ask is, 'Why not?'"
Woodworth asked the audience to think about the men who marched every
day for 10 days for four hours with a 50-pound rucksack.
"And as they're walking you'll hear, 'There went my toe-nail,' but they
kept marching; you hear, 'Hey, I think I'm walking on blood,' but they
kept marching; 'I think my knee just blew out;' 'I think I'm rubbing a
hole in my back,'" Woodworth said. "But the answer they always said
was, 'At least I feel that pain, at least I have that knee and I can
patch that back.' That's what happened here today."
Eric Fiel, commander of AFSOC, captured the sacrifice borne every day
by Special Tactics Airmen and their families.
"To all the folks who are part of the special tactics team, past,
present and future, to all the families, the nation has asked quite a
bit of you guys over the last 10 years or so," Fiel said. "You come
back banged up, beat up. Some of you are on your 15th, 20th, 25th
deployment and there is really no end in sight. We're going to continue
to ask a lot of you."
Fiel told the families that the Special Tactics men could not do what
they do for AFSOC without their support. He summed up that over the
last 10 years the special tactics community has produced four Air Force
Crosses, 26 Silver Stars, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, 200
Bronze Stars with valor device, 460 Bronze Star medals, 90 Purple
Hearts, 90 wounded in action and 17 killed in action.
"To all the members of the special tactics team, I really appreciate
all you do for us as a nation, and I just say thank you," Fiel said.
Fiel also thanked the supporters who were instrumental in motivating
and bandaging the marchers along the way.
One of the supporters, Tech. Sgt. Sara Cabuag, with the 21st STS, knew
three of the fallen Airmen. She was responsible for driving a support
vehicle during the march, making sure the men hit their specific times
and locations and that they had all the supplies they needed during the
"I think the family members were very proud of the march and the
marchers who poured their heart and soul into this mission," Cabuag
said. "It assures them that their loved one has not been forgotten and
never will be."
John Carney Jr., the president of the Special Operations Warrior
Foundation, said none of this could have been accomplished without
great patriots and Americans throughout the country who believe in what
the team was doing and supported in every way they could.
Dehlbom remembers when Cub Scout Pack 221 from Madisonville, La., came
out to support. He remembers one little boy in a stand-up wheelchair
who was all smiles to see the marchers.
"He was an incredible inspiration for all of us," Dehlbom said. "He was
all gung-ho. He wanted to go the entire way with us to Florida and he
was out there ripping it up. He went forward with us for probably about
a mile and a half but you could tell he wanted to go farther. That's
what it's all about. We will never give up no matter how difficult the