HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
As the hot sun sets, the sounds of a large crowd diminishes into the night. With each hour that the moon glows in darkness, the air becomes filled with sounds of soft murmurs and quick, calculated breaths against the dry, desert air in rhythm with rubber soles that tap against the pavement with each stride.
The pavilion at Biggs Park on Fort Bliss, Texas, that was once filled with service members and their families, is nearly empty and only occupied by one unit – the 7th Air Support Operations Squadron. The bright red, green and blue flag is still waving around the park being carried by these Airmen. The only explanation for such dedication; Brotherhood.
Every year, Tactical Air Control Party Airmen around the world spend 24 hours running, walking, or ruck-marching as much as they can in remembrance of every TACP Airmen that has fallen in training or combat. The flag that represents all in their career field must stay up and moving during the entire 24 hours, and sponsors donate money to support every mile covered for the cause.
“It is a good opportunity for the entire squadron and community to get together for a common reason,” said Tech. Sgt. Dan Hampton, 7th ASOS flight chief.
While the annual TACP Association’s 24-hour run is a fun community event, the actual meaning of this event is not lost on anyone, and that is evident in their past success.
“Last year between individuals and corporate sponsorship we raised over $169,000 career-field wide,” said Hampton.
Hampton also said there was a former TACP member who was recently diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma cancer, and the association raised over $100,000 to help him and his family.
TACP Airmen work with the U.S. Army by coordinating close air support for forces on the ground. Due to the dangerous nature of their job, and their isolation from other career fields, the bond they form with each other is everlasting.
Retired Master Sgt. Charles Holbrook, a former TACP Airman, was working as a contractor to help his brothers still serving when his life suddenly came to an end during a training exercise. With this recent tragedy so fresh in their minds, this year’s run stood out amongst others.
“It is important for us to recognize and reflect on his sacrifice because it happened right here in Red Rio during a training day when he was out here with us,” said Hampton. “I think it is important that we pay our respects.”
Although Holbrook’s memory was honored during the event, his wife Belen made it clear that their support is more than just once a year.
“I really did not know much about the TACP Association until my husband passed,” said Holbrook. “Not only have they helped financially, but they have made the time to make sure my daughter and I feel protected.”
For this fundraiser, that helps the TACP Association financially assist families like the Holbrooks, maximum participation is the goal. That is why the event is open to the public with base access.
“One thing I love about this event is my mom comes out,” said Hampton. “She is 55 and comes out here and puts in the miles. Her drive is nice to see because it reminds everyone that it is not just the guys in the squadron, the TACP Association is for the families too.”
The infectious display of brotherhood from the TACP Airmen at this event provides fellow participants with the motivation they need to give 100 percent for a cause they believe in.
“I like to come out here to remember our fallen,” said Hampton. “We are raising a lot of money for the TACP Association and I know that goes a long way to support our brothers in need.”