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Mighty Ninety member rows himself to London

F. E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. -- When Lt. Gen. James M. Kowalski, commander, Air Force Global Strike Command, issued the challenge a member of the Mighty Ninety made it his mission to rise to meet it.

Staff Sgt. Jarrod White, 90th Maintenance Operations Squadron missile maintenance instructor, took the AFGSC American300 Rowing Challenge seriously, rowing a total of 1,579,800 meters, or 981 miles - earning the individual title and a trip to London.

"I showed up two hours before the opening ceremony on the first day of the challenge," said White. "I didn't realize there was a kick-off that morning so I got there early, ready to go and found I had to wait. It was a minor set-back, and the only one; from then on I was determined to win."

White said he had only been on a rowing machine twice before competing in the challenge, rowing for five minutes as part of his workout routine. After starting to compete in the rowing challenge, White said rowing became his workout routine.

"At first it was a little awkward and uncomfortable, but over time I got used to the motion," said White. "Even though I got more accustomed to the rowing motion, it still hurt more and more over time.

"I started taping my feet and hands but I still got blisters, and my hands are still healing right now," he added, exposing the palms of his hands. "There were times where I have never been in that kind of pain."

Physical pain was only one of the hurdles White had to overcome; boredom and mental fatigue were also a problem he said.

"I tried to get as many sessions on the machine as I could," White said. "I started going earlier in the morning so I could row longer, sometimes up to an hour and a half. When you're performing the same motion for that long it can be difficult to stay motivated."

As White continued toward his goal he found he had a support group he was not aware of at first.

"The staff in the Freedom Hall Fitness Center was unbelievably helpful," said White. "They gave me encouragement every day I was on the machine, they even gave me the remote to the television."

Along with the support from members of the fitness center, White said he got tremendous encouragement from fellow members of the Mighty Ninety.

"I had complete strangers approach me while I was rowing to offer me something to drink, an energy bar or banana," White said. "It was incredible encouragement to have people recognize what I was trying to do and offer that support; there's really no way I could thank them enough."

White also had help from the members of his shop, through encouragement and ensuring mission completion.

"Last month was a busy month," explained White. "We had inspection preparation, a six-hour inspection evaluation where I earned a highly qualified rating as an instructor, all on top of going to school full time and rowing whenever I could.

"I'm glad April is over," he added with a sigh.

White said he found motivation in many different places, even imagining himself on a C-17 he saw flying east while he was rowing in the fitness center. "I imagined myself flying east to London on that plane," White laughed.

"I joined the Air Force for many reasons, including the opportunity to travel," added White. "I wanted to earn the $50,000 for the wing, and I also wanted to earn the opportunity to see London. I'm looking forward to this trip very much."

White said his biggest support came from home, adding that his parents and friends believed in him from the start.

"There's a strong military tradition in my family and my parents were behind me from the start," White said. "I also had a lot of support from my girlfriend Rachel; I couldn't have done this without her patience and motivation. Everyone around me knows the kind of person I am and knew I could do this all along."

Part of his push also came from what he wore during his hours on the machine.

"I wore an F. E. Warren hat while rowing that I had bought my grandfather," added White. "He passed away last year and was a military veteran and a role model for me; I wore that hat to remember him and drive myself to keep going."

White said he learned about his ability to be mentally strong and resilient through the rowing challenge.

"When you think you're done you're not," he said. "You can always keep going, there's always something more, you just have to find it in yourself to keep pushing."