NEWS | Nov. 5, 2019

Team Kadena Operators Honor Ultimate Sacrifice

By Staff Sgt. Peter Reft 18th Wing Public Affairs

OKINAWA, Japan -- Airmen and family members with the 320th Special Tactics Squadron and the 31st Rescue Squadron conducted a five-mile memorial ruck in honor of two fallen pararescuemen.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Sean Barton, from the 320th STS, and Tech. Sgt. Peter Kraines, from the 24th Special Operations Wing, died from injuries sustained in training incidents in 2014 and 2019, respectively.

"We do these memorial rucks and memorial workouts to remember the fallen and their families and to educate others who may not have known them to learn about those who made the ultimate sacrifice," said Tech. Sgt. Kenneth O'Brien, a pararescueman with the 320th STS. "We get together, do these workouts, and we share the sweat and camaraderie in memory of our brothers."

The memorial ruck featured a pair of 200-lb. litters and several 50-lb. water cans, totaling 800 lbs., in addition to loaded ruck packs worn by Airmen.

"We make these rucks difficult so you actually have to push through and think about why you're doing this," said O'Brien. "Remember that the sacrifice they made is much worse than anything you're going through during the memorial."

Spouses and children showed their support for the fallen as well, running alongside the Airmen.

"This was the first time in my experience we did a memorial workout with spouses, and my wife actually suggested it," said O'Brien. "We do not suffer alone. They share this burden with us."

"Our community is pretty small, especially the pararescue community," O'Brien added. "You feel like you know people better, you know what their families went through, and any loss hits pretty hard."

The kinship, brotherhood and family bond of special operations forces members are key parts of life for the men and women of the Air Force who volunteer for the most dangerous assignments. The 320th STS and 31st RQS conduct memorial ruck marches every couple of months for PJs and Combat Controllers, according to O'Brien.

Intense training required of pararescueman is not without risk, but the hard work and struggle result in some of the world's most capable and determined Airmen ready to aid anybody else in need, whether they're in a combat zone, jungle or sea.

Tech. Sgt. Sean Barton was a certified paramedic, static line jump master, military free fall jump master, combat dive supervisor and recovery team leader.

His decorations include seven Air Medals, an Aerial Achievement Medal, two Air Force Commendation Medals, an Air Force Achievement Medal and an Army Achievement Medal.

Tech. Sgt. Peter Kraines was a certified paramedic, static-line jumper, military free-fall jumper and Air Force combat scuba diver.

His awards and decorations include two Air Medals, an Aerial Achievement Medal, an Air Force Commendation Medal, an Air Force Achievement Medal, an Afghanistan Campaign Medal, a Meritorious Unit Award, an Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon with gold border, and a NATO Medal.