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Pope team wins 10th Annual Ruck March

  • Published
  • By Emily Farrington-Smith
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
When its cold outside, most people stay inside, bundle up and drink hot cocoa. Few would think of traveling almost 500 miles to compete in a ruck march competition in the middle of a Delaware winter, but that's just what Pope's 14th Air Support Operations Squadron Tactical Air Control Party team did. And they did with big payoff: a first-place win.

Twenty-eight teams of four loaded on their 30-pound ruck sacks and ran the 6.2 miles to compete in Dover Air Force Base's 10th Annual Ruck March Feb. 21. The 14th ASOS team consisted of Capt. Stephen McNamara, Tech. Sgt. Mitchell Polu, Airman 1st Class James Demars and Airman Benjamin Hutchins. Their winning time clocked in at 55 minutes, 29 seconds.

The event was hosted by the 436th Security Forces Squadron to commemorate the veterans of the Korean War who fought in the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. More than 2,500 servicemembers died and 5,000 were wounded in the Battle of Chosin Reservoir Nov. 26 through Dec. 31, 1950. Members of the Delaware Korean War Veterans Association were present for opening ceremonies with retired Master Sgt. Theodore Shafer serving as the guest speaker.

Mr. Shafer was drafted into the Army and served 14 months in Korea from March 1953 to May 1954. He fought as an assistant squadron leader during the Battle of Pork Chop Hill in 1953 and had a friend who fought and died at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.

"I thank all of you for being here and for bringing it out to the public," said Mr. Shafer, who after serving his Army enlistment joined and retired from the Air Force as a C-5 flight engineer. "I think what the rucksackers are doing here at Dover is one way of saying thank you."

Sergeant Polu commented, "Honoring those who served and the sacrifices they've made make events like these important," he said. "We can all read it in books with a sense of awe and amazement ... just imagine what it was like to meet these heroes. That's a feeling I can't put on paper."

Meeting real-life heroes was icing on the cake to go along with their win in Dover.

Captain McNamara, Sergeant Polu, Airman Demars and Airman Hutchins are able to be assigned to Army combat maneuver units all over the world, they train with the 82nd Airborne Division, engage in tank assaults with the 1st Armored Division and operate deep behind enemy lines with the 75th Ranger Regiment.

Their conditioning and physical prowess leading to the winning team's first­-place finish could be attributed to the everyday training they experience as members of the TACP, said Captain McNamara, 14th ASOS air liaison officer.

"We are all fairly new to the TACP world," Sergeant Polu said. "We work on team concept on what it takes to complete any given task. You alone can do good things, but having teammates with the same goal and drive is amazing."

(Senior Airman Andria Allmond, 512th Airlift Wing Public Affairs at Dover AFB, contributed to this article.)