Fifteen members of the Air Commando Associations marched through Florida on a mission.

 

Fifteen members of the Air Commando Associations marched through Florida on a mission.

A mission to raise awareness and funds for other air commandos.

“It’s always dedicated to fallen soldiers,” said Doug Iredale, an active duty member of the association.

“This year we had a U-28 crash just a few weeks prior to the ruck and we decided this year it was going to be dedicated to those guys.”

That crash, which happened during a training flight from Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico, killed the three special operations airmen on board.

This is the sixth installment of the annual Air Commando Ruck March, which starts at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa and makes a 450 mile trip to Hurlburt Field Air Force Base outside of Fort Walton Beach.

The team passed through Port St. Joe last week.

The ruck is broken down into teams and each team is responsible for 25 miles a day, with one person carrying a 50-pound pack at all times until the group reaches its destination.

For the past four years the group has been stopping at Port St. Joe’s Port Inn.

While the airmen are happy to sleep anywhere, they were particularly excited to reach the hotel.

“This is by far the nicest place we’ve stayed. Some nights we’re just holed up on the floor in a fire department,” said Iredale.

Team Four, of which Ireland is a member, was motivated by word from the team in front of them about the pool and the tandem bikes available at the Port Inn, but that hasn’t been the only motivation along the way.

“The communities that we have passed through have been amazing as far as support goes,” said Iredale. “When you have people on the side of the street or trucks honking their horns, we even had a construction worker that took off his hat and stood at attention until we passed him.”

Team Four consists of Iredale as well as Cody Flora, Ricky Castorena-Ramirez, and Jeremy Castro, all of whom are participating in the march for the first time.

Though they’ve had a great time, there are challenges.

“The first couple of days everyone was feeling good and feeling fresh,” said Iredale, the team leader. “I think yesterday is when people really started to feel a toll on their bodies.”

Each one said the support from local communities and passing motorists has helped them along the way as the mileage began taking a toll on their feet.

“When you’re at the 24th mile for the day, and you’re like my feet are killing me and my legs are killing me, and the last person passing honks, it kind of gives you an extra boost,” said Iredale.

Team Four’s rest was short and they were back on the road that night marching west.

The group of airmen didn’t seem daunted and were ready to get back to their mission.

You can donate to the Air Commando Ruck March at https://www.youcaring.com/air-commando-association-emerald-coast-chapter-513741.