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128 ARW SFS marches to remember their fallen comrades

The Security Forces Squadron Airmen with the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard, participate in a ruck march June 5, 2016, at General Mitchel International Airport. The march was in honor of Staff Sgt. Louis M. Bonacasa and Technical Sgt. Joseph G. Lemm who, along with four other Airmen, lost their lives in Afghanistan to a suicide bomber attack. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airmen Morgan R. Lipinski/Released)

The Security Forces Squadron Airmen with the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard, participate in a ruck march June 5, 2016, at General Mitchel International Airport. The march was in honor of Staff Sgt. Louis M. Bonacasa and Technical Sgt. Joseph G. Lemm who, along with four other Airmen, lost their lives in Afghanistan to a suicide bomber attack. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airmen Morgan R. Lipinski/Released)

The Security Forces Squadron Airmen with the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard, participate in a ruck march June 5, 2016, at General Mitchel International Airport. The march was in honor of Staff Sgt. Louis M. Bonacasa and Technical Sgt. Joseph G. Lemm who, along with four other Airmen, lost their lives in Afghanistan to a suicide bomber attack. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airmen Morgan R. Lipinski/Released)

The Security Forces Squadron Airmen with the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard, participate in a ruck march June 5, 2016, at General Mitchel International Airport. The march was in honor of Staff Sgt. Louis M. Bonacasa and Technical Sgt. Joseph G. Lemm who, along with four other Airmen, lost their lives in Afghanistan to a suicide bomber attack. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airmen Morgan R. Lipinski/Released)

The Security Forces Squadron Airmen with the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard, participate in a ruck march June 5, 2016, at General Mitchel International Airport. The march was in honor of Staff Sgt. Louis M. Bonacasa and Technical Sgt. Joseph G. Lemm who, along with four other Airmen, lost their lives in Afghanistan to a suicide bomber attack. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airmen Morgan R. Lipinski/Released)

The Security Forces Squadron Airmen with the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard, participate in a ruck march June 5, 2016, at General Mitchel International Airport. The march was in honor of Staff Sgt. Louis M. Bonacasa and Technical Sgt. Joseph G. Lemm who, along with four other Airmen, lost their lives in Afghanistan to a suicide bomber attack. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airmen Morgan R. Lipinski/Released)

Milwaukee -- "Forward harch!" ordered 1st Lt. Patrick Rielly and, on that cue, the marching unit began to step. The Security Forces Squadron Airmen with the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard, left at dawn June 5, 2016, for a trek that tested their physical and mental strength.

The 128 ARW SFS took part in an eight-mile ruck march that trailed the perimeter of General Mitchel International Airport in Milwaukee. Approximately 40 SFS Airmen participated in the march including Col. Dan Yenchesky, the 128 ARW wing commander, and Command Chief Master Sgt. Connie Bacik, the 128 ARW command chief. According to Maj. Aaron M. Gulczynski, the 128 ARW SFS commander, the Airmen were encouraged to carry a pack that weighed approximately 20 percent of their body weight and wear the minimum equipment of a ruck sack, a plate carrierĀ vest, and an unloaded M4 rifle. Gulczynski's pack weighed approximately 60 pounds, yet he claims others exceeded that and carried more.

"This march was dedicated to the remembrance of Staff Sgt. Louis M. Bonacasa and Technical Sgt. Joseph G. Lemm," said Gulczynski. "They were two of six Airmen who lost their lives in Afghanistan when a suicide bomber on a motorcycle attacked their patrol."

Both Lemm and Bonacasa were Airmen with the 105th Airlift Wing, New York Air National Guard, and were deployed in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel. The 128 ARW SFS Airmen had previously worked with the 105th Airlift Airmen for training and other missions so this loss had hit close to home and their hearts.

"We marched in honor of them," said Gulczynski.

The ruck march also served as a test for the resiliency of the Airmen, allowing them to evaluate their readiness for any upcoming obstacles they may face whether physical or mental, at home or overseas. How ready were they? According to Gulczynski, the unit marched at an approximate 4 mph pace, completing the march in 2 hours and 20 minutes.

"I am extremely proud of the Airmen," said Gulczynski. "This was not only a physical challenge, but a mental strain. Nobody fell out and everybody finished together. Although we were hurting and it wasn't easy, we pulled through and overcame this obstacle."