Military News

Monday, April 27, 2015

For the love of running, charity

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 race.

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 spouses."

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 training phase."

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."

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