FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, MD
As a memorial to the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Air Force security forces members will participate in the Ruck March to Remember from July 12 to Sept. 11.
Security forces members from 23 units will march 2,181 miles from the Air Force Security Forces Center in San Antonio to Ground Zero in New York City.
The march is in remembrance of the more than 6,000 service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice since 9/11, said Maj. Jim Alves, the creator of the event and the 4th SFS commander at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. It is also a time for security forces members to think about how 9/11 has changed their career field and lives.
"We're doing it to reflect on ... the time we've been away from our loved ones due to deployments, the effects those deployments have had on each person and ultimately to remember the defenders who lost their lives by enemy hands since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom," said Tech. Sgt. Kenneth Broughman, the event coordinator and 4th Security Forces Squadron member.
Air Force security forces units from across the country will participate in the march, each covering approximately 140 miles. Participating units are from Lackland AFB, Texas; Randolph AFB, Texas; Barksdale AFB, La.; Keesler AFB, Miss.; Columbus AFB, Miss.; Tyndall AFB, Fla.; Moody AFB, Ga.; Robins AFB, Ga.; Pope AFB, N.C.; Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C.; Langley AFB, Va.; Andrews AFB, Washington, D.C.; Dover AFB, Del.; Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.; and the New York Air National Guard.
The ruck march is the brainchild of Alves, who read about combat controllers and pararescuemen marching from Texas to Hurlburt Field, Fla., for a cause.
"I thought if we applied the same concept on a march from San Antonio to Ground Zero, it would not only be possible, but it would be an outstanding way of remembering those who have given their lives on, and since, 9/11," he said.
In December 2010, the major began working on the project with his squadron members. By January 2011, he presented the idea to his fellow security forces squadron commanders. They all quickly jumped on the project, and Alves handed coordination responsibilities to Broughman.
While coordinating an event involving thousands of miles and hundreds of Airmen might seem like a large undertaking, both Alves and Broughman said they were pleasantly surprised not only by the positive reception, but also by the hard work each unit put into doing their part.
"Everybody was on board from day one," Broughman said. "They were calling me for more information, asking, 'What else can I do?' ... 'What's next?'"
One such person was Senior Airman Josh McCarty, of the 78th Security Forces Squadron at Robins AFB. Although he is the squadron's go-to Airman for event coordination, and therefore the first choice to get the 78th SFS involved in the march, McCarty's enthusiasm for this project is more personal.
"One of the main reasons I joined the military was because of what happened Sept. 11," he said. "A lot of us joined for that reason. I want us to show how much we appreciate the family members and everyone who's lost their lives for what we fight for."
Since 9/11, 10 defenders have paid the ultimate sacrifice and more than 100 have been wounded in combat. These statistics, unfortunately, include two 4th SFS members. In May, Staff Sgt. Ben Seekell and his military working dog, Charlie, were injured in a land mine explosion outside of Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Seekell is currently undergoing rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., after losing half his left leg in the explosion, while Charlie is at Seymour Johnson AFB undergoing treatment for hearing loss and a leg injury.
"It's very humbling to be a part of this," Broughman said. "To be able to do something this big and have people remember those guys who don't come home (and) the guys who don't come home the way that they left."
The public can participate in the march by showing support for the defenders, cheering for them along the route as they march through their town, or by visiting the Facebook, YouTube and Twitter pages, Broughman said.
The Facebook page can be found at www.facebook.com/pages/Security-Forces-911-Ruck-March-to-Remember/170407923010504 and the YouTube page is www.youtube.com/user/911RuckMarch People can follow the defenders on Twitter at @SFRUCKMARCH.
This article by Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Rojek Defense Media Activity
(Staff Sgt. Heather Stanton, of the 4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs, contributed to this article.)