Chief Master Sgt. Edward Walden had been waiting, reassuring the Air National Guard marathon team, their units, friends, and family that they ran very well when the race officials made an anticipated announcement.
He sat in his office here Dec. 10 overlooking the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center. He smiled. He handed over a recent article on the Air Force Marathon. And then, after some questions about the coming year, he began to talk about something near and dear to him.
“I really want to focus and emphasize that three years ago, we were last in the Air Force Marathon’s MAJCOM [major command] Challenge, last year we were eighth, this year, we came in second,” he said about the teams’ official standings behind the winners: Air Combat Command.
“First place was a little more than five and a half minutes away … an achievable goal for next year.” He paused.
“The accomplishments of the Guardsmen that did this is phenomenal.”
More than two months before, Walden, TEC’s commandant, ran the Air Force Half Marathon at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.
But he knew that his finish time would not count for the Air National Guard’s team time because he did all he could last year to find and manage the nation’s fastest citizen-Airmen to do just that.
“This team was made up of the best the Air National Guard could offer, full-time and part-time Guardsmen that were officers and enlisted,” he said.
“I also think that it’s important to report all of their names.”
The team: Col. Christan Stewart, Kentucky; Maj. Sharon Ehasz, Virginia; Maj. Laura Johnson, New Mexico; 2nd Lt. Adam Bernal, Texas; Tech. Sgt. Shane Hurd, New Hampshire (TEC); Tech. Sgt. Travis Kallay, Wisconsin; Staff Sgt. James Munnis, West Virginia; Staff Sgt. Mathew Klundt, California; Airman 1st Class Franz Konczak, Texas; and Airman 1st Class Annelise Rowe, Idaho.
Now the hard work, he said: putting together another competitive team to make a run for the MAJCOM trophy in next year’s 20th Air Force Marathon.
It is a bigger challenge than just having the team run faster. Walden is keenly aware that the Air National Guard’s runners are the only MAJCOM Challenge participants who pay for their own travel, entrance fees and uniforms out of pocket.
Some of their fastest runners last year qualified for the team, but they could not afford the trip to Ohio, including one Airman from Puerto Rico, and Walden said that they would never know if his speed might have pushed their team’s time to the top.
“In talking about One Air Force … we need to make sure that we are looking at it in all ways – when it comes to deployment when it comes to our missions back home and even when it comes to our MAJCOM Challenge,” he said.
When Rowe won her military division as the top female in the half marathon, she learned that the Guard and Reserve were not counted as part of the other military runners or winners in the awards ceremony – Walden stepped in, spoke with the race officials and things were rectified. Race officials mailed her trophy to Walden with an assurance that next year’s race would be different.
“Chief was defiantly my biggest supporter and backer to see that the award was given to the fastest military member,” said Rowe, noting that sometimes Guard members are not seen as a part of the Air Force. “We definitely consider ourselves every bit …”
While Walden pointed out those potholes, he is equally confident that there’s support out there with all involved to patch them up before the next race.
Runners will get online for the marathon’s open registration, beginning on New Year’s Day. The race sells out. Walden said he would also be lacing up again to try to solicit the Air National Guard’s top runners to join the team.
More than 100 Airmen submitted their official race times for consideration in last year’s team. Three men and one woman make up the full marathon team. Four men and two women, make up the half marathon team. Their combined times count toward the trophy.
Walden’s call for runners goes out in February, through Air National Guard Force Support Squadrons. He announces the team’s qualifying runners in May. From there, the team will train and get to know each other through email and social networking up until the third weekend in September.
He’s redoubled his training to try and make the team too. If nothing else, Walden said that he wants to highlight the talent and the pride of National Guard Airmen alongside the other major commands.
Walden tapped his desk. “I want to shout from the rooftops how great we did,” he said. “It’s important for all to know how well our Guardsmen did in this competition and how we are looking forward to a great competition next year, hopefully with additional support and funding.”