08/21/11 — SJAFB unit joins Ground Zero march

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SJAFB unit joins Ground Zero march

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on August 21, 2011 1:50 AM

They have been marching for more than a month along country roads and state highways -- the Security Forces airmen who committed to honoring the countless sacrifices that have been made since 9/11.

And today at noon, members of the unit that created the 2,182-mile trek from San Antonio, Texas, to Ground Zero will take the guidon that has been carried throughout the "Ruck March to Remember" and begin their 150-mile leg of the cross country journey.

It affected everyone differently -- the series of attacks that unfolded on American soil nearly a decade ago.

But members of the 4th Fighter Wing Security Forces Squadron said for airmen in their career field, 9/11 did not simply signify the beginning of the Global War on Terror.

It meant their role would change -- that tours away from home would require far more than securing bases at locations across the world.

It meant less time with family and friends -- that deployment orders would come again and again.

"9/11 was a huge turning point for our career field," said 4th SFS Commander Maj. Jim Alves who, along with Tech. Sgt. Kenneth Broughman, designed the Ruck March that, when it ends in New York City Sept. 11, will have seen 15 Air Force units take the guidon. "Pre-9/11, we were doing jobs similar to the ones we do here. ... Since 9/11, the missions we have done, on Sept. 10, we never would have dreamed of doing that stuff."

So as Americans prepare to mark the 10th anniversary of a day that rocked the nation, those locally-stationed airmen who signed up to defend it will honor, over the next week, those sacrifices they have seen firsthand since combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan began.

Airmen from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base are currently on their way to the Level Cross Fire Department where, at noon, they will begin to march.

And when they are relieved in Virginia 96 hours later by their comrades stationed at Langley Air Force Base, a 4th SFS airman who knows all too well the kind of sacrifices required of some service members deployed to Afghanistan will be the one to relinquish the guidon.

Staff Sgt. Ben Seekell, a Military Working Dog handler who lost a foot when he and his canine partner, Charlie, encountered an Improvised Explosive Device just outside the Bagram Airfield perimeter, will be reunited with his comrades when they wrap up their leg of the effort July 25.

For complete coverage of that reunion -- and the journey to it -- follow the News-Argus in print and online.