ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. — America’s Citizen Airmen are known for going the extra mile, juggling their family life, civilian employment and commitment to the nation’s defense just as a juggler keeps a number of objects in the air, in unison, perfectly timed, spaced and synchronized.
But the 10 marathon runners who will be representing the nearly 70,000 Air Force Reservists in the upcoming Air Force Marathon go even further. They also manage to squeeze some serious training into their already demanding schedules.
Representing Air Force Reserve Command, these Citizen Airman runners will compete against runners from the other Air Force major commands in the MAJCOM Challenge at the 20th Air Force Marathon Sept. 17 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
The Reserve runners come from a wide range of military specialties. There is an intelligence officer, a security forces specialist, an information technology professional, an air power strategist, T-38 and C-17 instructor pilots, an aeromedical evacuation medic, a pediatrician and an avionics technician.
On the civilian side, there is a high school teacher, a full-time mom of three and an operator of a non-profit organization. A few do the same job in both their military and civilian careers.
While, collectively, their skill sets are impressive, they are only a small representative sample of what the Air Force Reserve has to offer to the defense of the United States.
Even though their part-time commitment highlights the cost savings the Air Force Reserve, as compared to the active duty, provides to the country, they are ready full time to answer the nation’s call – a call that has gone out since 1916, when Reserve air power was first organized.
At any one time, about 5,000 Citizen Airmen are overseas serving in combat zones or participating in multi-national exercises, thereby enhancing and strengthening the country’s partnerships with friendly nations and allies.
America’s Citizen Airmen are able to seamlessly integrate within active-duty units as well as in joint inter-service units, offering a flexible option to commanders to fill critical positions with Air Force Reservists.
Reserve marathon team member Lt. Col. Daniel Kostecka is currently serving on a temporary active-duty tour with the Air Force headquarters at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. He is a full-time civilian employee with the Department of the Navy. He exemplifies the flexibility Reservists offer to the nation’s defense establishment.
Just as there are Reservists serving active-duty tours, there are active-duty Airmen serving in Air Force Reserve organizations. Capt. Spencer Johnson, an information technology professional assigned to AFRC headquarters at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, is the only active-duty Airman on the Reserve marathon team.
Kostecka and Johnson are great examples of how the active and reserve components of the Air Force operate as one Air Force team. There are others. Currently, active-duty officers are commanding Reserve units and Reserve officers commanding active units under the Integrated Wing concept, a program aimed at bringing reserve and active units together to work as one team.
On Aug. 26, Lt. Gen. Stayce Harris, a reservist, pinned on her third star in a promotion ceremony and formally assumed the position as assistant to the vice chief of staff of the Air Force.
While reservists integrate seamlessly with the active duty on a daily basis, the Reserve also brings unique mission capabilities, like aerial firefighting, aerial spray and weather reconnaissance, to the fight.
The 10 AFRC Challenge Team runners embody the best of what the Air Force Reserve provides for the nation’s defense. And the same commitment, discipline and sacrifice they demonstrate in their military capacity extends to their training for the marathon.
Johnson, Maj. Brian Cummings, Maj. Christina Hopper and Staff Sgt. Richard Lape say they wake up early several days a week to train for the marathon. Lt. Col. Audrey Hall runs with a group of working moms as they motivate each other.
“Having a wife with a full-time job, being a parent of a teenager and having a dog is very challenging, and it is hard to fit running in,” Kostecka said. He said he finds the time during the three duty hours allowed for physical fitness at his Department of the Navy civilian job and during early morning runs on the weekends.
These Citizen Airmen are relentless in their preparation and desire to compete. For Kostecka and Hopper, this will be their second Challenge Team experience. For Spencer, it’s his third. In April, Cummings ran his seventh marathon in Boston.
“Running, biking, swimming, yoga … these are the coping mechanisms that allow me to excel,” said Master Sgt. Tito Carillo. “Balance is the key to being successful, and working out is ingrained in my daily routine.”
Almost 100 Citizen Airmen applied for the AFRC Challenge Team, and 10 were chosen. Their restless spirit will be on full display at the Air Force Marathon.
“The team is absolutely ready,” said Lt. Col. Brian Biggs, AFRC Challenge Team captain. “Typically, AFRC has the oldest team, but that also means they have the most experience. All of the team members have numerous races under their belt, winning their age or gender divisions or winning an entire race outright. They have the knowledge and experience necessary to adapt to changing race conditions. While I am not willing to make a Joe Namath-style prediction of victory, I am confident they will put forth their best effort to represent the 70,000 Citizen Airmen of the Air Force Reserve.”