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JBLM Special Tactics Officer honors fallen

March honors airmen who have been killed in action since 9/11

Air Force Special Operations Command Air Commandos march in honor of fallen brethren Feb. 24 near Houston, Texas. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ridge Shan

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Second Lt. Matthew Winkeleer rucked into American history.

A Special Tactics Officer assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord's 22nd Special Tactics Squadron, Winkeleer and 19 other Special Tactics airmen from other squadrons marched 830 miles in 11 days during a 5th Special Tactics Memorial March.

"We consider it an honor to be the ones marching," commented Winkeleer.

The 22nd is part of the 24th Special Operations Wing, headquartered at Hurlburt Field, Florida.

The mission of Air Force Special Tactics airmen is to provide a ground component which specializes in global access, precision strikes, personnel recovery and surgery.

Since 9/11, 20 of these airmen have been killed in action. The last is Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin, a combat controller who died in Afghanistan in November 2018.

To honor him and the other 19 Special Tactics airmen who have been killed in combat since 9/11, 20 airmen assigned to the 24th volunteered to ruck 50 pounds over 830 miles in the 5th Special Tactics Memorial March.

The march commenced at 2 a.m. (CST) Feb. 22 at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland (Medina Annex), Texas -- marched through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, and concluded this past Monday at 1 p.m. (EST) at Hurlburt Field.

The marchers also paid tribute to the two 3rd Special Forces Group soldiers who died with Elchin and to their Gold Star families.

Each of the 10 teams of two airmen alternately rucked an average of 12 to 14 miles per leg and averaged about 75 miles per day.

They also carried 22 wooden batons, each one bearing the name of one of the 20 fallen Special Tactics airmen and the two Special Forces soldiers.

"This march gives me some time to reflect and remember those that came before us that made the ultimate sacrifice," concluded Winkeleer.

The remembered Special Tactics airmen are as follows:

Master Sgt. William McDaniel, Pararescueman, Feb. 22, 2002

Staff Sgt. Juan Ridout, Pararescueman, Feb. 22, 2002

Master Sgt. John Chapman, Combat Controller, March 4, 2002

Senior Airman Jason Cunningham, Pararescueman, March 4, 2002

Staff Sgt. Scott Sather, Combat Controller, April 8, 2003

Capt. Derek Argel, Special Tactics Officer, May 30, 2005

Capt. Jeremy Fresques, Special Tactics Officer, May 30, 2005

Staff Sgt. Casey Crate, Combat Controller, May 30, 2005

Senior Airman Adam Servais, Combat Controller, Aug. 19, 2006

Tech. Sgt. Scott Duffman, Pararescueman, Feb. 18, 2007

Tech. Sgt. William Jefferson, Combat Controller, March 22, 2008

Staff Sgt. Timothy Davis, Combat Controller, Feb. 20, 2009

Senior Airman Daniel Sanchez, Combat Controller, Sept. 16, 2010

Senior Airman Mark Forester, Combat Controller, Sept. 29, 2010

Tech. Sgt. John Brown, Pararescueman, Aug. 6, 2011

Tech. Sgt. Daniel Zerbe, Pararescueman, Aug. 6, 2011

Staff Sgt. Andrew Harvell, Combat Controller, Aug. 6, 2011

Capt. Matthew Roland, Special Tactics Officer, Aug. 26, 2015

Staff Sgt. Forrest Sibley, Combat Controller, Aug. 26, 2015

Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin, Combat Controller, Nov. 27, 2018

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