Denali Climbers Hope to Highlight Importance of Proactive Resilience> Youngstown Air Reserve Station> Post Display
Five current and former aviators – including two Air Force reservists – who plan to climb North America’s highest mountain peak from the end of the month, hope their expedition will shine the spotlight the importance of proactive resilience.
Lt. Col. Rob Marshall, an individual mobilization augmentee assigned to US Space Operations Command who is currently on command full time with the Air Reserve Personnel Center at Buckley Air Force Base, Colo., Will lead climbing 20,310 feet to Denali, Alaska starting May 29.
Lt. Col. Mark Uberuaga, Traditional Reserve Major Marshall Klitzke and former Airmen Mark Schaffeld and Wesley Morgan will also be part of the climb.
“It will be a tough climb, so we formed a group of highly skilled climbers, but we also wanted several Airmen who overcame significant personal difficulties because we want to use their stories to highlight how important it is. for people to actively train. resilient, ”Marshall said.
A seasoned mountaineer who has climbed many of the world’s highest peaks, Marshall said rock climbing helps him cope with the life challenges he is currently going through, but also to be better prepared for any hardships that may arise. in the future.
“I was in mountaineering as a hobby when I was young, but I didn’t know it was related to resilience until 2005,” he said. “I was a young captain in my twenties on a special operations mission in Albania when our sister ship crashed into a mountain range and killed all nine airmen on board. It was my first real experience close to death and the loss of friends. I worked on a daily basis. I became depressed and had to find a way to deal with the pain I was going through. “
Marshall said his first response was to turn to alcohol to cope with the loss. When it didn’t work, he looked towards the mountains.
“I was really at a low point so I turned to mountaineering because it was my happy place,” he said. “I turned to my community because I had friends who loved mountaineering and it took my mind off the pain, but it also helped me deal with the pain. We talked about the loss while hiking and mountain climbing. it’s much better than drinking beer with the guys at the bar. “
The lieutenant colonel said that as he continued to climb and spend time in nature in the years that followed, he felt his resilience grow.
“What’s cool about mountaineering for me is that it touches on the four pillars of full fitness for aviators,” he said. “Obviously it’s extremely difficult physically. Socially it’s such an amazing experience because you spend days, even weeks, with other people and you develop deep and permanent bonds. mentally stimulating – there is risk management happening all the time and finding and managing the food days and planning the schedules. It takes tremendous mental strength. And finally, nature is my church. I feel closest to God, to spirit, to perfection. Watching the sun rise or the sun set. The high mountains just fill my spiritual bucket. “
Marshall said this rise of Denali was especially important to him because the last time he tried to reach that peak he didn’t quite succeed.
“I tried to hike up Denali in 2009 and the military reminded me of when I was on the summit one day,” he said. “I got the call saying they needed me right now for the CV-22 Osprey’s first combat deployment to Iraq. When I said I would summit tomorrow and leave right after that they said no we need you now. while I was on a plane leaving the glacier, my team made it to the top. “
Marshall said this climb is also special due to a new physical challenge that he will be trying to overcome.
“About a month and a half ago the Air Force diagnosed me with two torn menisci in my left knee,” he said. “I tore them up on the ski and the surgeon is already talking about a possible knee replacement after I’m done with Denali. It’s going to be really tough, but we want to show people that they can overcome challenges if they’ve already worked. on building. their resilience. “
Marshall isn’t the only climber to face physical challenges when climbing the Denali.
Uberuaga recently survived a major infection in her spine that resulted in the removal of two of her vertebrae. He underwent spinal reconstruction surgery in December.
“Training for Denali has helped me and my caregivers set and achieve lofty goals instead of settling for a life of mediocrity,” he said. “Outdoor adventure sports provide me with the best form of creative expression and I find abundant energy when thinking about and performing mountain trips.”
Schaffeld, who currently works as a social worker at Boise Veterans Administration Medical Center, said mountaineering helped him overcome the head trauma he suffered while in the security forces in the late 1980s. 1980.
“Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, the outdoors has always been a source of adventure and healing for me,” he said. “I attribute my seasonal ranger work to the park, exploring the backcountry of Crater Lake, Sequoia / Kings Canyon, and Olympic National Park as an important part of my healing / recovery process.”
Marshall said the team will be doing something unique during this expedition to Denali.
“We’re going to do the Denali’s normal climb, called the West Buttress, at about 14,000 feet,” he said. “From there we’ll take a more difficult route called Upper West Rib for the last 6,000 vertical meters. The plan is to leave most of our gear at 14,000 feet and climb the last 6,000 meters and come back down. at our camp, all in one day. This last day is going to be extremely difficult, but we think it pays to try something harder than average. “
While Marshall has said he looks forward to the climb as it will help build his own resilience, he hopes this expedition inspires other Airmen.
“The more I am a mountaineer, the more I feel prepared for unexpected problems or even traumatic stress,” he said. “They might not be mountains for you, but knowing that you have a community or a place on Earth that you can go to in the event of a tragedy or when you are really going through a difficult time, this is your refuge for the world. resilience. We want to inspire Airmen to connect with what makes them resilient, then go out and do it. It is active resilience. “