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Walking the talk

The ruck march was an event organized by 20th Air Force headquarters staff to build comradery and create a space for difficult conversations about racism and discrimination. U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt Ieva Bytautaite.

Members of 20th Air Force and the 90th Missile Wing participate in a ruck march, June 19, 2020, F. E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo. The ruck march was an event organized by 20th Air Force headquarters staff to build comradery and create a space for difficult conversations about racism and discrimination. U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt Ieva Bytautaite.

The ruck march was an event organized by 20th Air Force headquarters staff to build comradery and create a space for difficult conversations about racism and discrimination. U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt Ieva Bytautaite.

Luna, a participant’s dog, looks on after the ruck march June 19, 2020, F. E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo. The ruck march was an event organized by 20th Air Force headquarters staff to build comradery and create a space for difficult conversations about racism and discrimination. U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt Ieva Bytautaite.

The ruck march was an event organized by 20th Air Force headquarters staff to build comradery and create a space for difficult conversations about racism and discrimination. U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt Ieva Bytautaite.

Members of 20th Air Force and the 90th Missile Wing listen to remarks prior to the start of a ruck march, June 19, 2020, F. E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo. The ruck march was an event organized by 20th Air Force headquarters staff to build comradery and create a space for difficult conversations about racism and discrimination. U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt Ieva Bytautaite.

The ruck march was an event organized by 20th Air Force headquarters staff to build comradery and create a space for difficult conversations about racism and discrimination. U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt Ieva Bytautaite.

Senior Master Sgt. Cleophus Gallon, 20th Air Force operations and training superintendent, front right, participates in a ruck march June 19, 2020, F. E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo. The ruck march was an event organized by 20th Air Force headquarters staff to build comradery and create a space for difficult conversations about racism and discrimination. U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt Ieva Bytautaite.

F. E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. --

20th Air Force headquarters staff and members of the 90th Missile Wing gathered together 19 June, 2020 at F. E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, for a 5K ruck march.

When most people hear the term “ruck march” they think of blistered feet and heavy backpacks. Although the majority of participants carried a ruck ranging from 35 to over 70 pounds, the intent of the event, dubbed “Ruck Racism”, was to build comradery and allow for a safe space to start having important, yet sometimes uncomfortable conversations about how racism and discrimination affects Airmen.

The idea for the ruck march came from Senior Master Sgt. Cleophus Gallon, 20th Air Force operations and training superintendent.   

“I saw one of my best friends, Chief Master Sgt. Erik Blanco from the 341st Training Squadron at Lackland AFB doing this, and I wanted to support him and his efforts,” said Gallon. “Although I couldn’t physically join his initiative, I could ruck in solidarity here so I did a 4.5 mile ruck with a 35 pound pack on the same day as his event.”

When Gallon’s coworker, Master Sgt. Alexis Chapa, 20th Air Force manager of training, heard that Gallon was going to do the ruck, he wanted to do something similar here at F.E. Warren.

“I told him, don’t do this alone, let’s do this together,” Chapa said. “These types of events bolster comradery, open up lines of communication and help us start having conversations about race and discrimination, which can be uncomfortable for many people.”

Master Sgt. Stefan Hobbs, 20th Air Force manager of weapons and tactics and security forces operations, joined the initiative and encouraged his fellow Airmen to join as well.

“The main reason I wanted to participate and get others involved was to have that open dialogue, build relationships and give people a space to talk to each other and hear perspectives and stories from people who may not look like you,” Hobbs said. “It’s also a good time to take a mental pause and enjoy the sisterhood/brotherhood.”

Gallon, Chapa and Hobbs hope to continue holding similar events throughout the year.

“We are so thankful for the support from the 90th Missile Wing First Sergeant’s Council and the 90th Security Forces Group for helping us out by providing traffic cones and vehicles to keep everyone safe,” Chapa said. “This was definitely a team effort.”