AFDW defenders take part in Ruck March to Remember

Brig. Gen. Jimmy McMillian, headquarters director of Security Forces, and 2nd Lt. Sean Long, 11th Security Forces Squadron flight commander, lead the way during the Ruck March to Remember.  Team Andrews defenders marched the guidon more than 150 miles from West Virginia to Pennsylvania. (courtesy photo)

Brig. Gen. Jimmy McMillian, headquarters director of Security Forces, and 2nd Lt. Sean Long, 11th Security Forces Squadron flight commander, lead the way during the Ruck March to Remember. Team Andrews defenders marched the guidon more than 150 miles from West Virginia to Pennsylvania. (courtesy photo)

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- More than two months ago, security forces Airmen tied their boots tight and armed up for a 2,000-mile journey to remembrance. Instead of carrying weapons, however, these defenders were carrying a guidon, pride and professionalism.

The march began with 4th Security Forces Squadron members at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, who marched nearly 150 miles to LaGrange, Texas, where they handed the guidon over to defenders from Barksdale Air Force Base, La.

"The march honors security forces and service members who have fallen supporting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Tech. Sgt. Mark Latimer, the JB San Antonio team organizer from the Air Force Security Forces Center.

Teams from several Air Force installations along the route joined together to distribute the distance.

On the 13th leg of the journey, more than 50 National Capital Region defenders from the 811th Security Forces Group, National Guard Bureau Headquarters, and Headquarters Air Force A7S carried the guidon nearly 150 miles from Moorefield, W.Va., to Wells Tannery, Pa.

Senior Master Sgt. Hugh Umpstead, 11th Security Forces Group Anti-Terrorism officer, said the defenders approached the march with their normal down-to-business attitude, devoid of emotion and ready to do the job at hand.

"I think your mind changes once you're out there," he said. "There was plenty of time to reflect on the road. It's called the 'Ruck March to Remember' for a reason. If we can draw something tangible from the process that helps instill a sense of remembrance in our brains, I think it's all worthwhile."

More than 4,000 American service members have given their lives in the war on terror so far, along with thousands more of the Air Force's joint partners.

Umpstead said he and the members of the Andrews team were more than honored to take part in the march.

One of the more prominent parts of their journey was a wreath-laying ceremony in the which the team participated at the Flight 93 Memorial near Shanksville, Pa., Umpstead said.

"When you go to those places (Pentagon, Ground Zero and Flight 93 Memorial) where these people died, and you think about their situation that day, it's inspiring," Umpstead said. "The people on Flight 93, people who didn't even wear the uniform, chose to stand up to the attackers. They embodied that American spirit of standing up for what is right."

Umpstead said they found the event really enriched his and the other participants' understanding and reverence for the people who lost their lives that day.

"You don't get that every day, working behind a desk or out on the flightline," he said. "If it takes a long walk along the countryside roadways to bring that out of you and make you think about it, I think it's all worthwhile."