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ANG first shirts run 100-mile marathon

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Chelcee Arnold

KEY WEST, Fl. -- Twelve Air National Guard First Sergeants embarked on a remarkable journey, a 100-mile ultramarathon from Key Largo to Key West, Florida, May 18-19, to raise funds and awareness for the Air Force Assistance Fund campaign, turning their physical challenge into a testament to camaraderie, resilience, and the unyielding support of fellow airmen.

“First sergeants represent strong character, resiliency, and physical fitness standards set across the Air National Guard, so a challenge of this nature really fits that,” said Chief Master Sgt. Aaron L. Dent, Command First Sergeant of the ANG.

The participants shared a history of their running races, completed an interview, and committed to individually running up to 25 miles per week in training. Many of the runners came together and met for the first time at the race to showcase the power of Airmen uniting to achieve a common goal and in less than five months, 12 first sergeants devoted themselves to running the ultra-marathon relay race, according to First Sgt. Joshua Johnson, ANG teams coach and runner.

"The KEYS100 wasn't just about pushing mental and physical limits," said Johnson. "It's about pushing each other and forging bonds that weather any storm. When Airmen come together, anything is possible. It's about showing our airmen that they can do anything they set their mind to."

Divided into two teams, Team Tortoise and Team Hare, both groups completed the grueling 100-mile course in under 21 hours, raising $6,360 of their $10,000 goal.

“This environment shows a team aspect and an individual aspect,” said Dent. “It coincides with what they do day in and day out. Sometimes they act as a team serving on first sergeants councils and the individual aspect is the first sergeant serving at the squadron level. That’s exactly what that race was, you run as an individual, but you have to count on your team to finish it and that’s what our councils do for Airmen every day.

Their resilience mirrored the everyday challenges faced by Airmen and people worldwide, underscoring their motivation to formerly partner with the Air Force Aid Society and its mission of assisting Airmen, Guardians, and their families.

"AFAS is the organization that stands in the gap for our Airmen, Guardians, and families when they need it most," emphasized Kris McBride, Chief Operating Officer for AFAS. "We are grateful for the generations of Airmen that have given and supported AFAS for the past 80 years."

Established in 1942 as one of four official charities for the U.S. Air Force, AFAS plays a vital role in helping members, active and retired, during the unique challenges of military life. AFAS continues to support Airmen and Guardians through various hardships. Today they have 94 campaign locations, relying primarily on donations for funding.

"When the campaign workers go desk-to-desk telling the stories of our charities, they're telling the very people who can benefit from these four charities," said William D'Avanzo, Department of the Air Force Fundraising Chief. "This is Airmen and Guardians taking care of our own. We won't leave a fellow Airman or Guardian behind, whether on the battlefield or in a financial pinch. This is us, we're a family. We talk about resilience; the Air Force Assistance Fund is resilience in action!"

AFAS provides no-interest loans and/or grants to help meet immediate needs and make a positive step towards a lasting financial solution. Education grants, loans and scholarships are available to dependent children or spouses of Airmen and Guardians, both active duty and retired. AFAS understands the challenges that come with military life and offers targeted community programs to help with such things as childcare, car upkeep and spouse employment education.

“The impact AFAS makes on our Airmen, Guardians and their families is seen on a daily basis,” said Mcbride “From helping service members get home when a loved one passes away or being able to assist families when they are unable to purchase food or cover basic living necessities. The stories are countless.”

Members can apply for assistance on-line through the AFAS portal at