Team America's Air Force Conquers the Challenge

By Johnson, Ray | Parks & Recreation, December 2001 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Team America's Air Force Conquers the Challenge


Johnson, Ray, Parks & Recreation


TEAM AMERICA'S AIR FORCE TRUDGES UP MT. COOK DURING THE 2001 ECO-CHALLENGE NEW ZEALAND. THE FOUR AIRMEN PLACED 12TH IN THE ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL EXPEDITION RACE.

With little sleep for days, the four racers had been scaling a bitterly cold New Zealand mountain almost non-stop during the 2001 Eco-Challenge. Once finished, they saw their reward for staggering to what appeared to be an almost unreachable halfway point: the start of a tortuous 60-mile bike ride over the meanest terrain imaginable, with even more seemingly impossible stages to follow.

That's the price Team America's Air Force paid when entering the world's premier expedition adventure, which covered a punishing 230-mile trek on New Zealand's South Island in late October. But for more than six days, Tech. Sgt. Ken Fournier, Senior Master Sgt. Skip Kula, Staff Sgt. David Shuman and 1st Lt. Rebecca King pushed aside pain and fatigue to finish a merciless course of river rafting, mountaineering, rappelling and trail biking.

Out of 67 international teams that started the race, held annualLy in a remote region of the world, the Air Force team finished 12th overall and first for military competitors. Plus, for bragging rights, they easily bettered the previous top showing by a U.S. service entry, a 17th place finish in Morocco by a 1998 group comprised mostly of Navy SEALs.

But most importantly, they simply survived an event Labeled by its organizers as "a race measured in pain-- endured lessons."

"If one person quits or is injured, thi entire team, which must include men and women, is disqualified," said Mark Burnett, race director. "To succeed is tc finish; to win demands something extraordinary."

Simply put, it calls for going beyond the beyond. "When you're in the middle of it, you definitely have your doubts o why the heck you're doing this," said Fournier, 39, captain of Team America's Air Force and a pararescueman, or PJ.

The bluesuiters qualified for the 200: Eco-Challenge after winning the Armed Forces Eco-ChaLlenge in June, covering 158 miles of Alaska wilderness in four and half days. That race, however, covered only two-thirds the distance of a New Zealand grind that took some participants the maximum time allowed -- 12 days - to complete.

The key to finishing? Burnett believe it's group dynamics.

The teams that do well, he said, are those that minimize friction that is bound to arise after many days of grueling travel."

Fournier agreed: "The biggest (concerns) are those that tear apart teams because of the stress level. My goal was for us was to finish successfully and stay together."

In an article for GO magazine, the team was described "as Living the beer commercial." Shuman, 32, also a PJ, explained: "We're a pretty easy-going, happy-go-lucky group."

But their self-described laid-back personality can be deceiving. For when it comes to their vocations and avocations, the four are all business.

Founier has twice been named Air Force Special Operations Command Pararescueman of the Year.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Team America's Air Force Conquers the Challenge
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?