Jen Snook and Cody Lynn Gomez are two of the most normal young ladies you’ll ever meet.  They go to nursing school, hang out with their friends, and work a part-time job.

Oh, and they’re Search and Extraction Medics in the Air Guard Homeland Response Force, trained to respond to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive attacks or extreme natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires.

SSgt Cody Lynn Gomez of the Air National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing in Ohio, gives us a sneak peak at the Spartan side of her life:

“We do missions that help during a natural disaster or any kind of an explosion that happens, whether chemical, biochemical or natural.  We can come and set up a fully functional area to help people.  I am a Search and Extraction Medic, so I can go into a rubble pile, find a victim, package them up and do necessary emergency life-saving duties and then get them to decontamination to then get them more medical attention.”

What’s a typical mission like on the Homeland Response Force?

“Our latest mission was a tornado that leveled a whole college and we had 40+ people missing.  Our mission was to go into the wreckage and find as many people as we could and pull them out and extract them. We had to jackhammer through…I found a couple of people – when I do that I yell, ‘I have one, two, I need a CAT or a SCAD,’ which is a device that we use to package them in. I found somebody whose hips were broken, so he could not help me whatsoever.  I got him packaged up, then slid him through as much as I could to my guys who pulled him out.

“I also had somebody that had fallen from a 30-foot scaffold down into what looked like a tubing.  We set up a 3-point harness system and I got lowered into this tubing to package up this victim, which was pretty interesting considering it was a 300 lbs victim and I’m 100 lbs soaking wet.  It ended up working out really good – I got him out.  We got him into the medical unit.”

What’s it like serving in the Air Guard and going to school at the same time?

“I use the Air National Guard scholarship along with my GI Bill, so I get 100% tuition paid for at a private nursing school. And I get checks every month depending on how many credit hours I take to help pay for supplies and books. I couldn’t ask for anything better. It helps take away some of the debt stress so I can concentrate on my schooling.”

Airman First Class Jen Snook of the Air National Guard’s 116th Air Control Squadron in Oregon offers insight into her Air Guard mission:

“In a CERFP unit, we have our RNs that are triaging patients through each zone. We’re used a lot for HazMat situations, building collapses, and natural disaster recovery.  We’re a Search and Rescue and Extraction Team as well, so we actually work hand in hand with the Army National Guard; they do a lot of our extracting and then we, of course, are their medics.

“We set up hot zones and cold zones and triage our patients on the way out.  If they need to be decontaminated, we have decontamination zones as well and then they’re brought to the tents where we have our doctors waiting to be able to take them and then we’ll set them up to evacuate them out to the hospitals from there.”

CERFP? What is that?

“’CERFP’ stands for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosive (CBRNE) Enhanced Response Force Package.  The military is full of acronyms!”

What’s training like?

“My training for the CERFP unit started with 8 ½ weeks of basic training. From there I went to tech school that started with EMT licensing, which is a 5 ½ week course.  In the civilian world it’s actually 6-9 months long.  After that we go to a nursing program, which is another 8 weeks.  That’s more of your hands-on studying…then we go through some real hands-on training with real patients in a hospital.  I was able to be stationed in the ER, and that was an incredible experience…from there I was able to run my side of the ER with just a little bit of guidance and really get confident in my skills.”

How has serving in the Air Guard changed your civilian life?

“It doesn’t really affect my civilian world a whole lot. It’s just a couple weeks of the year and one weekend a month.  As far as affecting my civilian life it really has done nothing but advance my career opportunities down the road.”

 

Tags: , , , ,

by Pat Guyette, Spartan HQ Staff

Since mid-2011, Spartan Race’s main military partner has been the Air National Guard.

A countless number of our obstacle racers are military veterans and thousands of them are Airmen.  We could not be more proud to align our brand with such a courageous group of Americans!

If you are a Spartan Race finisher, chances are you have been face-to-face with ANG’s logo, as you were attempting to successfully complete the traverse wall obstacle.  Some of you, whether racing or spectating, have competed in the Air National Guard Pull-Up Challenge – the most popular festival challenge at our events.  All of you, have undoubtedly said “thank you” in one way or another to our military for keeping us safe.

If you’ve enjoyed the challenges a Spartan Race course offers, you might be surprised to find out that most of these challenges correlate to and help prepare you for real life situations. None of these challenges are more real or more humbling, than what Darrin Kesler encountered in his most recent deployment in Afghanistan.

The following is the transcript of an interview I had with SrA (Senior Airman) Darrin Kesler, who is a TACP recruiter based in Peoria, IL.

PG: I’d like to start off by saying thank you for serving. A huge percentage of our athletes are veterans and we have a great appreciation for our armed forces.

 

DK: No problem. My pleasure.

PG: Great. So, where are you based out of?

DK: Peoria, IL Air National Guard Unit.

PG: Is that where you grew up?

 

DK: Yes I grew up right here.

PG: I’m interested to know, at what point in your lifetime… what was the defining moment where you said to yourself  ”I want to join the military”…

 

DK: I was working as a welder for Caterpillar. I had already went to college and done that. Working at Caterpillar became really monotonous and I missed the team-like atmosphere that you have in school and playing football your whole life, and so I just decided one day that I needed a challenge, and went to a local recruiter and he said  TACP would be the thing for me.

PG: What is a TACP?

 

DK: A TACP stands for Tactical Air Control Party. They facilitate the use of airpower through the Air Force and Army. They are going to be the liaison between the Air Force and Army to direct air power; whether it is for calling in an airstrike, or for recon purposes, or surveillance purposes, anything like that. Anything with a plane in the sky we are going to direct the ground commander how to use that power.

PG: Spartans train really hard to get ready for their race as does the military to get ready for war. What are the fitness requirements to become a TACP?

 

DK: Right, yes. We have our own minimum standard to get into the career field and that’s called the PAST test, physical agility and stamina test. Things that are required are a mile and a half run in 10 minutes and 47 seconds, 40 pushups in two minutes, 48 sit ups in two minutes, and then there’s a 6 pull up minimum you have to meet, palms facing out, no kipping or anything like that. And then there’s a ruck march. If you aren’t familiar with rucking it’s essentially putting a book bag on your back with about 50 pounds and walking a 15 minute mile pace for about 4 miles.

PG: I don’t know if you are aware, but the Air National Guard is our Pull Up Challenge partner in every festival.  It’s the same rules, palms facing out, no kipping. That challenge is to see how many pull-ups you can do in one minute, so my question to you is how many pull-ups can you do in one minute?

DK: I can probably do about 20. 20 correct pull ups, if I cheat I little bit I could get about 30 or so, but 20 good ones.

PG: In the Air National Guard you can work part time and work other jobs while stationed domestically right? So what are Air Guardsmen’s main duties while stationed domestically?

DK: We have tons of career fields. So from working on an aircraft turning wrenches, or you want to fly on an aircraft, those opportunities are available. Or if you want to be a policeman or a firefighter, we have those opportunities available also. Maybe you want to work behind a desk and do you know logistics, intelligence, course readiness, personnel, we have all those kind of jobs also. So in any direction you are going in the outside world we will have something that correlates. Maybe not exactly, but something that’s going to be interesting for you to do for 2 days a month.

PG: So a really wide scope of jobs.

 

DK: Right, yes.

PG: So is it pretty safe to say that whatever their job is now they could find a similar position in the Air Guard?

DK: Something similar, yes. Like if you are out working in fashion design or something we probably we won’t have something for you there.

PG: Yeah, you guys buy all your clothes from one supplier right?

DK: Yup, it’s already pre-determined, so…

PG: Now, you recently got back from a deployment?

DK: Yeah, I got back in April 2011.

PG: Where were you deployed?

DK: I was in eastern Afghanistan.

PG: Obviously war is very real and it’s an integral part to protecting the rights and freedoms of the civilians of our great nation. During your deployment, when did the reality of war first really hit you?

DK: Pretty much as soon as we got there. We had to go to what’s called a COP, a combat outpost. We had to take helicopters, that was the only way to get there. So upon arriving they said “Hey there’s a mission going on here, and we are pretty much dropping you guys off and we don’t know if it’s going to be a hot LV or not.” And of course coming there for the first time, you really only know what you see in the movies, and it’s definitely different than that. When you are initially landing in the enemy zone there, it really gets real for you for a minute there.

PG: And what were your interactions with the locals like while you were deployed?

DK: Yeah we would talk to the locals. That wasn’t my main specific duty, but while out on patrols I always enjoyed talking with the kids, helping them out, and giving them stuff, and just seeing what they had to say. They were always asking questions. They were pretty smart, you know, I remember talking to one specific kid, and they don’t really keep track of age in years over there, but he would be like what we could call 7 or 8. And he was doing college level algebra, in his head, because he didn’t have a pen or paper. So one of the most wanted items there is a pen. Every kid wants a pen because a pen is a sign of wealth. So all the kids are wanting “Pen, pen, pen, pen”. Pen or chocolate. So they’re always asking for “a pen or a chocolate”.

PG: So did you always keep pens with you?

DK: Oh yeah. And you would get swarmed. Once you gave out one pen or one chocolate you’d get literally swarmed by kids. Once one kid comes out thirty kids come out. It was a good time, we had some fun.

PG: Awesome, so I see some similarities in that story to Spartan Race. Spartan Race is all about creating friendships and utilizing teamwork by helping out others on the course that you may not know, when they are in need. Can you tell me about your experience in Basic Training and where you see the similarities with running a Spartan race in terms of teamwork and bonding while going through a challenging experience?

DK: Sure yeah. I guess an example that correlates pretty much hand in hand is the obstacle course in basic training. Having the background that I have, I’m fairly athletic and like to think that I’m in shape and can do all of this stuff. So I’m starting out on the course and passing people and I’m running and doing my own thing. Come to find out there’s parts on the course where you need assistance. You know what I mean? You know you can’t climb this wall or you can’t do that all by yourself. So I learned real quick that this is a team exercise as opposed to an individual exercise. So, it seems like exactly how Spartan Race is. I was watching videos yesterday, and I remember the wall. People covered in mud and trying to get up that wall and they can’t get over by themselves, so whoevers on the other side has to lend you a hand to help them over. It’s the same thing.

PG: Spartan Racers have to overcome 20-30 obstacles on the course. What was the biggest physical obstacle you had to overcome in the battlefield?

DK: The hardest thing that we did was, we had a mission where we had to climb this mountain that was supposed to take two hours and ended up taking nine and a half hours. We were supposed to be up there for only 2 days, which of course got extended. So we didn’t really have water for one and a half to two days. So that was one of the harder things, you know, ten of us sharing and combining resources, to save enough energy for the trip back down in the coming days.

PG: At Spartan Race courses we have aid stations, and it never fails, every time we always have suggestions that there needs to be more aid stations out there. More water, more food for energy. It kind of prepares them for the real life experiences like you were thrown into, where you just have to kinda, dig deep.

DK: Dig deep, and push it through.

PG: Are you excited to run the Midwest Spartan Race with your fellow airmen October?

DK: I am. I didn’t get to do it last year so I’m excited to do it.

PG: Last year it was 3 mile sprint, and this year it’s a super, so its 8 miles. Should be a great challenge for you guys. Do you know we are notorious for a 400ft plus barbed wire crawl, sometimes up steep hills. Are you ready for that?

DK: I didn’t know that, but I’m up for the challenge.

PG: Obviously you missed your family and friends while deployed, but what is one small thing you have while home that you may have taken for granted and missed while away?

DK: Shower.

PG: Hot shower?

DK: No, just a shower at all. Like a working shower. Not pouring Dasani bottles over my head or a baby wipe shower, you know?

PG: Do you have any kids?

DK: I do, and I’m surprised you can’t hear her crying. Yeah I have one, she’s 5 months

PG: So she’s a little too young for our Jr. Spartan…

DK: Yeah a little bit but she’ll be doing it for sure. She’s a motivated one. She’s in her bouncy seat right now trying to jump as high as can be.

PG: What’s her name?

DK: Mallory.

PG: And she’s 5 months, so we’ll be on the lookout in about 4 years for Mallory’s name on the leaderboards for the kids event.

DK: You got that right.

PG: So I just have a couple of more questions, I don’t want to keep you all day. What would you like to say to Spartan Racers who are on the fence about joining the military, and why the Air National Guard is a great choice to consider?

DK: Well, for the most part, Spartan Race is a great challenge for one day or a weekend. They get to challenge themselves, and enjoy challenging themselves, for however long it takes them to navigate through the course. Then it’s over. The Air National Guard will challenge you every single day.

PG: The Mid-west Spartan Race is an 8 mile course, with 25 or more obstacles. Any predictions on what your finishing time will be?

DK: Oh I don’t know. What’s a good time? I know that one guy that does all of them and wins them all, he’s pretty much a beast. What is a good time for him?

PG: Hobie Call, yeah, he’s an animal. Each course is different but he usually finishes supers in 40-60 minutes, a good 5 to 10 minutes faster than his closest competitor.

DK: Well it may be a stretch, but I’ll set my sights on that range. I have a feeling though, that I’ll be stopping to help out others on the course, so that may slow me down a little bit.

PG: Thank you very much for your time, and again, for helping to defend our nation.

DK: My pleasure, and I’ll see you in Illinois in October.

If you’d like to find out more about what the Air National Guard has to offer, check out www.goang.com, or call 1000-To-Go ANG to talk to a local recruiter today.

 

Tags: , ,

When Hurricane Irene descended on the East coast and ravaged Spartan HQ in Pittsfield, VT and nearby Killington, VT where the recent Spartan Beast race was held, it was clear that the stranded town needed help. Help came in the form of the Air National Guard and along with 14 other towns, they were airlifted supplies and supplied necessities as the roads were being repaired to allow access into the battered towns.

A week after post-Irene flooding crippled arterial roads through the state, the Vermont National Guard’s Task Force Green Mountain Spirit led a multi-state effort to support civil authorities helping residents and reconnecting cut-off communities with the rest of the world.

The ironic twist is the relationship that Spartan Race has with the Air National Guard. They are one of our biggest supporters and sponsors and we want to give them some love!

In addition to the heroics on the East coast in recent weeks, the ANG will be putting on a show in Staten Island! On Sept. 24, at exactly 8:45 AM an HH60 PaveHawk ANG helicopter will hover over the race site and four PJ’s (Pararescue jumpers) will descend, carrying the trophies for the race. These four will then be joined by about 10 others in racing at various time during the day. The PJ’s and chopper were featured in the movie “The Perfect Storm.” Elsewhere on site will be the ANG’s Rise to the Challenge mobile interactive display – essentially video games that simulate ANG training. Very cool stuff!

So, how can you get involved in such an amazing organization? Here are some details about our friends in the Massachusetts Air National Guard and Otis Air National Guard Base.

Air National Guard pays up to 100% for State and local colleges TUITION. The new mission at Otis Air National Guard Base in MA, for example is made up of positions centered around the Intelligence and Communications career fields. Take a look at the multitude of benefits they have to offer, all for only 1 WEEKEND PER MONTH, AND 15 DAYS PER YEAR:

· ENLISTMENT BONUS OF $20,000 FOR 6 YEARS; for individuals enlisting into one of the many critical career fields.

· 100% TUITION & FEE WAIVER ; offered at Massachusetts State Colleges and Universities. This equates to thousands of dollars in savings for members every year.

· MONTGOMERY G.I. BILL; provides $345 per month – non-taxable – for full-time college students. This money does not have to be used for school-related expenses; it can be used for any expenses that you may have.

· MONTGOMERY G.I. BILL KICKER OF $350; in addition to the Montgomery G.I. Bill; offered to selected specialties within the Massachusetts Air National Guard and provides an additional $350 per month to those taking advantage of the MONTGOMERY G.I. BILL benefits. Add that to the GI Bill, along with your monthly “drill” pay, and you could be making over $700 per month!

· COMMUNITY COLLEGE OF THE AIR FORCE ; earn an associates degree through the Air Force by combining your college credits, and military training that you receive. This allows you to earn a degree in less time.

Check out www.goang.com for more details!

Tags: , , ,