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TACPs run thousands of miles, raise thousands for fallen airmen

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FB: Thousands of miles for charity. TACP Association's 24 Hour Challenge raises money for fallen and injured airmen through grueling distance running.

The tactical air control party airmen in the Air Forceare known as some of the toughest in the service, and when they decided to do a fundraiser, they went with one of the most grueling athletic endeavors – distance running.

The Tactical Air Control Party Association, a group of current and retired TACPs, in late March finished its fourth-annual 24 Hour Challenge, in which teams constantly ran over a 24-hour period to raise money to benefit the families of fallen and injured TACPs.

The event brought together 5,153 total runners in 33 teams across the globe, which collectively ran 37,037.7 total miles and raised all for a total fundraising number of $131,390. The In total, the group ran a distance equaled to 1.5 times around the equator in one day.

"(The challenge) ''takes our love of athletics and combines it with our competitive nature," TACP Association pPresident and retired Master Sgt. Charlie Keebaugh said. "It allows guys to come together as a unit and build camaraderie comradery among themselves."

This year's event brought together 5,000 runners, including a group made up of TACP airmen from every unit in the service, their families, partner services and local runners. The rule was that eEvery team had needed to have a member running constantly over the a 24 hour period. No breaks, but each team could plan as they saw fit, Keebaugh said. Some had groups running constantly, others ran in individual shifts. For a few "ultra" teams – no more than two 2 people – that meant piling up the miles in long shifts.

For example, the winning regular group made up of airmen and partners from Fort Hood, Texas, had 531 people on the team and logged 3,847 miles for at an average of 7.4 miles ran per person. The winning ultra team, two runners from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, logged 207 miles in 24 hours. The eight participating "ultra" teams averaged 61.3 miles per runner, more than two marathons, in 24 hours.

"Obviously our folks are very physically fit and very competitive," Keebaugh said. "We've got a lot of runners, that's why we knew this particular activity would be of interest to our group."

Teams spanned the globe. In addition to bases in the continental United States, there were teams from deployed units in Afghanistan and Africa, from along with bases in Korea and throughout Europe.

The TACP Association has no paid staff, and uses the money it raises to help the TACP community and their families.

"We send our resources to our folks and family as they need it, and usually in a pretty bad time," Keebaugh said. "A bad time when they have to focus on grieving and the help of loved ones."

For example, the TACP Association in March bought a car for a child of a TACP airman who had been killed. The group plans to buy one car per year for a Gold Star child. The group also wants to fund two scholarships per year, one for a person in uniform and another for a family member of a TACP. Other money goes toward helping out the families of fallen airmen.

"We've done everything from sending a handyman to somebody's house to fix a leaky sink, to paying for a hotel while a guy is in for whatever kind of treatment you could imagine would be the result of 14 years of war," Keebaugh said.

The 2015 endurance race was by far the biggest in its four-year history. It started off in 2012 with just a week of planning, and $7,000 raised – at that point the most successful fundraiser the group had ever had. This year's group of about 5,000 runners was up from 4,000 last year, and the group plans to make it even bigger next year, Keebaugh said.

"This gives us the resources to be able to respond, God forbid, if one of our guys has a bad circumstance," Keebaugh said. "We're able to step in and help."

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