Call of Duty

Like most Americans, I take much for granted. The air I breathe. My right to speak my mind. Freedom. Yesterday I had an opportunity to work with Air Force servicemen and servicewomen at McGuire AFB. My goal was to introduce them to the concepts of “efficient, injury-free running.” I was somewhat apprehensive prior to arriving at McGuire, not sure what to expect and unsure of their expectations. I was scheduled to do two 2-hour sessions, one at 9am and the other at 2pm. Like most situations, I had a game plan yet was prepared to adjust on-the-fly if necessary. The clinics were arranged by 87th Air Base Wing MSgt Jason Harrison, an Arkansas native, who had contacted me with hopes of finding an answer to his chronic shin splints.

Fortunately, it was a beautiful day – 73 degrees, breezy and brightly sunny. Both sessions went well, much more relaxed than I had anticipated. The early morning group included MSgt Harrison and 87th ABW Communications Squadron Commander and triathlete Major Heather Blackwell (the 87th AWB is one of the five “wings” on McGuire and is responsible for USAF installation support via logistics, deployment, contracting and protection). On the asphalt “block” I instructed, demonstrated and cajoled them through a battery of exercises, working through the proper foot strike, body posture and muscle actions necessary to run more fluidly. The post-video analysis proved that they were much more aware of their running form. The second group was larger. I exhorted them as they ran with their arms above their heads and in-front of their bodies. By the end, they too had a better grasp of the principles and structure I had communicated.

Between the sessions, MSgt Harrison took me to lunch and gave me a tour of the base. McGuire AFB is actually a “super” joint base, combining with the US Army installation Fort Dix and Lakehurst, the Naval Air Engineering Station. Driving through each base, I was awed by its enormity – and the complex organization necessary for daily and crisis operations. The hierarchy of communication, responsibility and action needed is mind-boggling. I was reminded of human movement, which requires the same dense network of interrelationships to work dynamically. We take for granted the interdependent chain of gravity/body mass/support/bodyweight/muscle effort that defines motion. When this “finely calibrated cycle of support” (Romanov, 2008) and energy transformation is interrupted, we experience deterioration in our quality of life. The fragility of our existence can be felt on so many levels.

During the second session, Major Blackwell awarded me a Commander’s Coin for Excellence. I was very appreciative and humbled by the gift. I held it understanding, that in some small way, by helping those who serve and protect us, that I become entwined in the fabric of life. Ut Unum Vincere.

One comment

  1. MSgt Harrison · October 30, 2010

    Tracy, at the beginning of each session I could tell there were skeptics but by the end every member was in awe of what we had just learned. As I told the day of your visit I hit a home run in choosing you to come and instruct us. Major Blackwell is singing your praises across the installation and passing out the many business cards you left with us. I hope this is the beginning of a long friendship between you and this installation to include the Air Force’s sister services at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. Again, I thank you for donating your time and expertise to not only improving our running mechanics but showing us how to think out of the box in terms of movement.


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