June 3, 2016

Airmen take on 50 summits challenge

Airman Nathan H. Barbour
355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ashley N. Steffen)
U.S. Airmen, veterans and civilians pose for a picture at the top of Humphreys Peak, Ariz., May 29, 2016. The group climbed the mountain as part of the U.S. Air Force 50 Summits Challenge, which focuses on bringing Airmen in each of the 50 states to the highest points of their respective states.

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. — A group of 19 individuals made up of U.S. Airmen, veterans and civilians summited Humphreys Peak, Ariz., Sunday in accordance with the U.S. Air Force 50 Summits Challenge.

The challenge is an enduring effort focused on bringing Airmen in each of the 50 states to the highest points of their respective states.

The Memorial Day weekend event checked one more peak off the list of summits to be reached by Airmen during the challenge.

“All of us are going to meet a challenge somewhere, whether it be mental, physical or even spiritual,” said Maj. Joel Bloomquist, USAF 50 Summits Challenge hike leader. “We are all here as one group and we are here to make sure we all make it to the top together.”

The challenge is meant to be difficult, but it also aims to bring Airmen across the U.S. together through shared experiences.

“Just being up that high and getting low oxygen, you have to really concentrate on your breathing,” said Capt. Justin, 355th Fighter Wing chaplain. “You think to yourself ‘four and a half miles is nothing. I’ll knock that out in two hours,’ but when you’re fighting for air every other step, it really makes a difference.”

The level of hiking experience varied among the Airmen, with times ranging from eight to eleven hours to champion the 12,633 foot peak.

The 50 Summits Challenge spawned out of the completion of the USAF 7 Summits challenge when U.S. Airmen tackled the seven highest peaks in the world. Now the idea is to take on the peaks in our own backyards.

“The Airmen who are coming down the mountain are going to return tired, but they are going to know a little bit more about [themselves] as people,” Justin said. “These are good memories and good relationships that will last a lifetime.”

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