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830-mile trek to honor fallen passes through Columbus

February 27, 2019 - 00:00
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    A group of U.S. Air Force Special Forces soldiers gather for a photo following a baton handoff on Walnut Street near Legion Drive Saturday. Columbus was on the route of one of the 12-mile rucks that make up a 830-mile hike the group was undertaking in memory of a fallen soldier.

COLUMBUS – Those traveling down Walnut Street in Columbus Saturday evening may have noticed men in red shirts with backpacks making their way into town, or, later, out of town through downtown.

Those men weren’t your average cross-fitters or fitness enthusiasts, though.

They were special–as in special forces. And, they weren’t just exercising. They were marching to remember their fallen comrades.

The 830-mile march, called a “ruck,” began earlier in the week at Lack-land Air Force Base near San Antonio.

The men will cross five states as they head toward Hulburt Field near Pensacola, Florida, where they will graduate from Special Tactics Training Squadron school and are deemed combat ready.

This ruck was undertaken in memory of Staff Sgt. Dylan J. Elchin, a special tactics combat controller who was killed in Afghanistan in November.

Chief Master Sgt. Jeff Guilman of Nashua, New Hampshire, said the walk was a good way to reaffirm a connection to the men and women who the Air Force Special Forces have lost in recent years. In 2011, this particular 830-mile exercise was renamed to honor fallen special forces soldiers.

Guilman, who was one of the special forces on the ruck, said he has known many of the Special

“I knew many of them, and probably had close relationships with about nine of them,” Guilman said while preparing to reload a van for the next 12-mile section of the ruck, which is done in increments, after passing off the baton to the next set of marchers.

“I’m carrying the baton this march for one of my students,” Guilman said. He said a student he taught and later deployed with, who was killed in Afghanistan.

Special forces soldiers also visited with local residents at an area crossfit studio.