CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti — Members of the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron (ERQS) organized a “Memorial Mash,” in honor of U.S. Air Force pararescueman Chief Master Sgt. Nick McCaskill on Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, April 6, 2014.
The mash, a fitness challenge, marked the one year anniversary of McCaskill’s death in Afghanistan. More than 70 people, split into 18 teams, competed in the event, which consisted of a total of 1,010 repetitions between 11 exercises. The repetitions symbolized McCaskill’s operating initials, a unique “XX.”
“He was looked up to by a lot of other PJs. He was a mild mannered, humble professional, and a great father to two girls,” said Senior Master Sgt. Howard Smith, 82nd ERQS, Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialist and senior enlisted leader.
Smith and McCaskill were stationed with each other at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. as part of the 306th Rescue Squadron. In the nearly eight years Smith worked with McCaskill he said he never “sought out recognition,” but wanted to bring out the best in everybody around him.
That’s why Smith and other members of his team thought the fitness challenge would be the most appropriate way to honor their fellow Airman. Bring people together and have them push each other beyond what they thought they were capable.
“Nick would always say ‘Lay it on,’” Smith said. “That just meant for him to take it, run with it, and get it done.” Which is something each of the competitors would have to do. Accept the challenge, push through and get it done.
“PJs are instilled with the value of teamwork very early on,” said Staff Sgt. Isaac Blanton, 82nd ERQS pararescueman. “Chief knew the value of teamwork and exemplified it throughout his career. For that reason, we wanted to honor his memory with a team event.”
A few of the final numbers, accumulated from all the mash participants, included a total of 7,300 box jumps, 1,800 dead lifts for a total weight of 333,000 pounds, 73 buddy carries covering 4.5 miles and 73 memorial pushups. After each team finished their 1,010 repetitions, each participant did one more extra pushup in honor of McCaskill.
Maj. Jesse Peterson, 82nd ERQS commander, said McCaskill would have loved the atmosphere.
“Above all else, chief was a people person,” Peterson said. “The fact that so many people were out there having fun would have put a huge smile on his face.”
Peterson and Smith both recalled just how much McCaskill liked being around friends and family, whether it was a barbecue at his house or a good physical training session with his Airmen.
“Everybody always felt comfortable around him,” Peterson said. “This memorial mash, where everyone was working as a team and enjoying each other’s company, was the perfect way to honor a fallen warrior and friend.”