AF Base's Smallest Group Makes Sentimental Trek

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- It is said, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." For the 602nd Training Group (Provisional), their first step began here with an 84-mile ruck march to Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, Miss. 

The members of the 602 TRG(P) embarked on this journey April 2, in commemoration of their mission in support of Joint Expeditionary Taskings, or JET, and to their students who made the ultimate sacrifice.

"This ruck, along the country roads of the great state of Mississippi, allowed our Airmen an opportunity to reflect upon where the unit has been, the sacrifices that have been made and the challenges remaining ahead," said Lt. Col. Ron Betts, the 602nd deputy commander.

Activated in 2007, the primary mission of the 602nd TRG(P) is to provide fully capable combat ready JET Airmen to the combatant commanders. JET Airmen are embedded with joint forces operating outside of the normal Air Force missions. The group ensures Airmen are prepared for the mission. 

The Airmen of the 602nd TRG(P), make up the smallest group at Keesler AFB, with only 34 members. The group is manned with permanently assigned Airmen from here and deployed Airmen from bases around the world.

In the early hours of the morning, in front of the 2nd Air Force Headquarter's flag pole, the commander of the 602nd TRG(P), Col. Melanie Milburn, gave the order, "Fall in." 

Master Sgt. Kelly Riedel, the group's first sergeant, took accountability of those present, then in a symbolic gesture, read aloud the names of the ten fallen -- all former students who made the ultimate sacrifice. 

All was silent. 

As the group began its three day, 84-mile journey to the Camp Shelby, members said they understood this ruck march was a demonstration of the dedication the Air Force has for supporting the Army's mission and honoring its fallen combat skill students. 

The ruck march was filled with significant symbolism, according to Betts, the event's originator. He said the 84-mile journey symbolized the tenure of the 602nd TRG(P) at Keesler AFB. One pound of weight was added to each rucksack honoring the group's original thirteen subordinate training detachments and one pound for each of the 10 JET Airmen who gave their lives for their country.

In addition, the ruck march took place over three days with each day representing the remaining active detachment locations. 

Finishing the march at Camp Shelby which is one of the original 13 detachments, was symbolic of the bonds the Air Force and Army share in the enduring expeditionary mission, Betts said. 

The entire event culminated at a retreat ceremony where Chief Master Sgt. Bryon Nelson, the 602nd TRG(P) chief enlisted manager, presented the unit guidon and rucksack to the 602nd TRG(P) commander, signifying the completion of the march. 

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