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Airmen embark on 812-mile trek to honor fallen heroes

Special Tactics team members Lt. Col. Patrick Barnett, headquarters Air Force Special Operations Command, Operations Directorate, Hurlburt Field, Fla., left, Senior Airmen Stone Hazlett, 21st Special Tactics Squadron, Pope Air Force Base, N.C., center, and Senior Airman Tyler Knaub, 58th Rescue Squadron, Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., right, walk past the north wall of the Alamo in downtown San Antonio Sunday. (U.S. Air Force photo/Robbin Cresswell)

Special Tactics team members Lt. Col. Patrick Barnett, headquarters Air Force Special Operations Command, Operations Directorate, Hurlburt Field, Fla., left, Senior Airmen Stone Hazlett, 21st Special Tactics Squadron, Pope Air Force Base, N.C., center, and Senior Airman Tyler Knaub, 58th Rescue Squadron, Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., right, walk past the north wall of the Alamo in downtown San Antonio Sunday. (U.S. Air Force photo/Robbin Cresswell)

Lt. Col. Patrick Barnett, headquarters Air Force Special Operations Command, Operations Directorate, Hurlburt Field, Fla., left, Senior Airmen Stone Hazlett, 21st Special Tactics Squadron, Pope Air Force Base, N.C., right, and Senior Airman Tyler Knaub, 58th Rescue Squadron, Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., not shown, carry batons engraved with the names of fallen Special Tactics Airmen as they march through downtown San Antonio Sunday. The three Airmen are members of an 18-man team honoring their fallen comrades by marching from Lackland to Hurlburt Field, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Robbin Cresswell)

Lt. Col. Patrick Barnett, headquarters Air Force Special Operations Command, Operations Directorate, Hurlburt Field, Fla., left, Senior Airmen Stone Hazlett, 21st Special Tactics Squadron, Pope Air Force Base, N.C., right, and Senior Airman Tyler Knaub, 58th Rescue Squadron, Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., not shown, carry batons engraved with the names of fallen Special Tactics Airmen as they march through downtown San Antonio Sunday. The three Airmen are members of an 18-man team honoring their fallen comrades by marching from Lackland to Hurlburt Field, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Robbin Cresswell)

Senior Airman Stone Hazlett, a combat controller stationed at Pope Air Force Base, N.C., holds the original baton bearing the name of Staff Sgt. Tim Davis, a combat controller killed by an improvised explosive device Feb. 20, 2009 during Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Robbin Cresswell)

Senior Airman Stone Hazlett, a combat controller stationed at Pope Air Force Base, N.C., holds the original baton bearing the name of Staff Sgt. Tim Davis, a combat controller killed by an improvised explosive device Feb. 20, 2009 during Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Robbin Cresswell)

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- When dawn broke Sunday morning, 18 active-duty Airmen began their trek from Lackland, a memorial ruck sack march in honor of 17 fallen special tactics teammates killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. An estimated 812 miles later, on Wednesday, the Warrior Airmen will arrive at Hurlburt Field, Fla.

On the way, six three-man teams will relay through five states, 24 hours a day, averaging 12.5 miles per leg. Each team will walk approximately 144 miles during the 11-day journey, carrying with them a 50-pound ruck sack and a commemorative baton engraved with a fallen Airman's name.

This is the third year of the Tim Davis Memorial March, begun in 2009 in memory of Staff Sgt. Tim Davis. Davis was an Air Force combat controller killed by an improvised explosive device on Feb. 20, 2009 during Operation Enduring Freedom.

"This is an event to commemorate fallen members of Air Force Special Tactics and honor their families," said Capt. Dan Breiding, an event organizer and student in the Special Tactics Training Squadron at Hurlburt Field. "These men paid the ultimate price to defend our freedoms, and we hope to educate everyone along the way of their sacrifices.

"It's not just about the men; it is also about the families and communities who support these warriors. This march is one way to show that these men may be gone but they are never, ever forgotten."

Together, the 18 Airmen left the Lackland Training Annex at 5 a.m. and marched through the base before exiting Kelly Field and breaking out into three-man relay teams. Five of the teams will rest while the sixth continues the march, taking turns for the next 800-plus miles followed by a support convoy.

The marchers will reunite in Wynnhaven Beach, Fla., on Oct. 26 to complete the final 4.6 miles as a team, where they will be joined by family members of the 17 fallen Airmen, several wounded warriors and members of the Hurlburt Field community. Together, they will march the final distance to the Special Tactics memorial at Hurlburt.

Retired Chief Master Sgt. Steven Haggett, another march organizer, said there is special significance to starting at Lackland and ending the march in Florida.

Special tactics training begins at the 342nd Training Squadron on the Lackland Training Annex and Hurlburt Field is where combat controllers and pararescuemen complete their training before joining their team, he said.

Haggett said the march not only honors the special tactics Airmen who have fallen in defense of America, but also helps raise awareness for Air Force specialties like special operations, combat control and pararescue.

Participants represent units from around the country and include members from nearby Randolph Air Force Base; Hurlburt Field; headquarters Air Combat Command headquarters at Langley AFB, Va.; Pope AFB, N.C.; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; and the Pentagon.

To follow the memorial ruck sack march, visit www.specialopswalk.com for information and updates.
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