CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti — It was 7:53 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941, when the attacks on Pearl Harbor began, and while the attack lasted less than two hours it would be forever etched in history.
So, at 7:53 a.m. on Dec. 7, 2013, 16 airmen from the 449th Air Expeditionary Group started a memorial “Monster Mash” to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice on that fateful day 72 years ago.
Monster mashes are tactical fitness workouts that combine a variety of movements into a single event, testing a person’s overall fitness level, said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Benjamin Domian, a survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialist with the 82nd ERQS, and the event coordinator. These types of workouts are also used for team building, and in this case a memorial for those who died at Pearl Harbor.
The event started with a 250-meter swim. The three-lane pool was alive while the four-member teams paddled and kicked back and forth across the length of the pool. Each member completed five laps before they continued to the next station.
With soggy shirts, they leapt out of the pool, laced up their boots, grabbed their rucksacks and headed to the beginning of the camp’s running trail where they tossed their 40-pound packs in the back of a mule, a small four-wheel drive vehicle, and pushed the mule for a quarter mile.
“There were moments where you had to mentally tell yourself, ‘Alright this pace is OK, we can keep going’ … while motivating your team members along the way,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Lane Paquin, a communications specialist with the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron.
After the mule push, they put the packs back on and completed another mile-long ruck march until they got to the memorization station.
This station had a 26-character diagram, which the teams memorized and attempted to reconstruct in the correct order at the next station a quarter mile down the road. Those who were unable to put the characters in the correct order returned to the previous station and tried again.
As part of many of these workouts, it is common to test someone’s mental toughness as well as their physical fitness, Domian said. The different mental and physical tasks level the playing field in this type of event.
The next physical test would start another mile down at Turf Field, where the calisthenics portion of the race took place. The teams completed either 100 pullups, 200 pushups and 200 air squats without rucks or 50 pullups, 100 pushups and 100 air squats with the packs.
Tired and winded, they answered 10 trivia questions about Pearl Harbor. Each correct answer eliminated five pounds from the 80-pound litter they carried for another quarter mile.
With the finish line in sight, teams sprinted the final leg of the race.
“I personally enjoyed the challenge,” Paquin said. “I work with a lot of physically fit (Airmen) … and it’s fun to get a taste of what (the pararescuemen) get to do on a regular basis.”
This wasn’t just a chance for these airmen to pay their respects to those who died at Pearl Harbor but remember one of their own who died 12 years ago.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Douglas Eccleston, a pararescueman with the 920th Rescue Group at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., died during a rescue mission off Florida’s coast on Dec. 7, 2001.
Paquin said memorializing those who have fallen allows them never to be forgotten.
“We would like to keep them at the forefront of our memory and that’s the reason we do this,” he added.