Road Warriors: 111th ATKW Airmen complete Gettysburg Blue-Gray Half Marathon

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  • By Staff Sgt. Wilfredo Acosta

A team of Pennsylvania Air National Guardsmen didn’t let pouring rain stop them from running 13.1 miles near the historic battlefield of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Six men and women assigned to the 111th Attack Wing participated in The Blue-Gray Half Marathon, which was part of the 13th Annual Gettysburg Festival of Races, April 30, 2023.

Overall, the event was more than just a race. It was also a way for some runners to pay homage to their warrior heritage while challenging themselves on the grounds that marked the turning point of The American Civil War.

The fact that more than 50,000 estimated casualties took place over three days of fighting at the Battle of Gettysburg did not escape Tech. Sgt. Sean Kielty, a member of the 111th Force Support Squadron Staff who was the first of the 111th runners to cross the finish line.

“It was a centering experience to commemorate the bloodiest battle of the Civil War,” said Kielty, “Because, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Despite pouring rain and temperatures below 50 degrees, all six of the 111th road warriors completed the race, which took them over the hilly back roads of Adams County, Pennsylvania, and included a turnaround point in the neighboring state of Maryland that crossed the Mason-Dixon Line. Several runners said that though the hills were tough and they were cold and soaking wet, they took comfort in knowing the end of the race was flat, and the finish line meant food and refreshments.

At the finish line, runners were rewarded for their grit with bananas, bagels, sandwiches, chips, sports drinks and beer. Perhaps most importantly, they were rewarded with a finisher’s medal and a chance to commemorate the event with a group photo.

Among those celebrating at the finish line was Col. Deane Thomey, 111th Attack Wing Commander, who was happy to have completed his first half marathon in almost ten years with his wingmen.

“Proud of my fellow warriors from the 111th ATKW for braving such difficult weather conditions,” said Thomey. “Not only did they complete a half marathon in Gettysburg, but they did it in the pouring rain.”