by Liz Jacobson
4/27/2015 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- Gasping
for air. Pushing himself. Going the extra mile. Fighting the
exhaustion. Loving those gel packs. Thinking of all his support. Smiling
as he crosses the finish line. Knowing he has benefitted his community.
Tech. Sgt. Ioan Gaitan took the challenge and ran the 2014 Air Force
Marathon as a representative for the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing
and the U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa on the Air Force
Enlisted Village team. Gaitan viewed the marathon as a personal fitness
challenge and a perfect opportunity to give back to the community.
Because of his dedication to the AFEV cause and work to spread the cause
throughout his unit, USAFE asked Gaitan to run as a representative in
The Air Force Enlisted Village, according to their mission statement, is
a non-profit organization that primarily provides a home for surviving
spouses of retired military personnel. AFEV focuses on providing worry
free living and camaraderie.
The late retired Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Binnicker,
AFEV CEO, expressed his appreciation to Gaitan in a letter written last
year. "The kindness and commitment of individuals like sergeant Gaitan
help us continue our mission to provide a home for retired enlisted
Running a marathon takes a great amount of dedication. Gaitan trained
for four months before the marathon. He said, "My spouse always
encouraged me and prepared the healthiest food; by having a balanced
meal with plenty of fruits and veggies, I always felt strong during the
After every physical training session with his squadron, Gaitan ran an
additional 10 kilometers. He trained during lunches and on weekends.
Gaitan received enormous amounts of support from his family, friends,
and leadership. His wife, Lucia, and their children, Alexander, Philip,
and Rachel gave unconditional moral support.
"Our three children are too small to run, but they offered me good
company and cheered for me every time I went out jogging with them in
the evenings. It was an absolute delight pushing the stroller and
singing along with them," said Gaitan.
His leadership was very supportive, offering a great deal of freedom
regarding his schedule, which allowed Gaitan to train even harder.
"The fact that my leadership allowed more flexibility to work out a
training schedule and then participate in the marathon did not mean that
the mission became second priority. Every day I put in the required
amount of work hours day like my peers did; moreover, I was even more
motivated and strove to deliver good quality work in the timeliest
manner possible," said Gaitan.
"The run went great because of the rigorous training program adopted allowed me to finish strong." said Gaitan.
The final stretch of the race was more of a mental battle, than a physical one.
Gaitan had to think to himself, "I am prepared and deserve to cross the finish line."
His constant thoughts of his leadership and the support of his family
kept him going. The sideline supporters were a great morale booster and
took away the pain of the race, even if just for a short time. Gaitan
especially identified with a sign that read, "I bet this was a great
idea four months ago."
Gaitan finished second out of the forty-six Air Force runners, only two minutes after the first place finisher.
The run was successful and Gaitan raised $2,613 in support of the AFEV,
which is almost 10% of the total funds raised, $30,967. Gaitan believes
everything went so successfully because he, along with his organization,
adopted the mantra, "The sky is the limit." Gaitan and AGOW achieved
their goals five times over.
"It has been a privilege and honor to represent 435th AGOW and the
entire USAFE in the 2014 Air Force Marathon! However, I could have not
done this on my own. I owe it to my great squadron and wing leadership,
my family, the professional organizations like Top 3, Chief's group, and
the Deuce Club, as well as the 20 volunteers across the wing."