Special Tactics Airmen compete for Team USA bobsled | Vandenberg
HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. — For the first time, two Special Tactics Airmen assigned to the 24th Special Operations Wing competed together in a major competition for Team USA Bobsled Nov. 28-29 in Park City, Utah.
Maj. Chris Walsh, a special tactics officer, and Master Sgt. Matt Beach, a combat controller, competed together in the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation North American Cup for the chance to represent Team USA at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
As a Special Tactical Officer, Walsh is trained to lead special operations ground forces teams for global access, precision strike and personnel recovery missions, but since August 2019 he has been training and competes as a full-time athlete in the Air Force world. Class Athlete Program. WCAP provides active duty, National Guard, and Reserve members the opportunity to train and compete in national and international athletic competitions with the ultimate goal of being selected to the U.S. Olympic Team while maintaining a professional military career.
“It’s great to be in the Olympic team picture,” Walsh said. “To compete with Team USA, USA Bobsled and the other athletes is a great honor and to represent the Air Force on the international stage is awesome. You hope you’ve done enough and things work out until you end up making the Olympic team, whatever that outcome is, for me, the whole journey of learning a new sport and to be able to compete and push myself to the highest level has been very rewarding.
Beach, currently assigned to the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron at Joint Base Lewis McChord, Wash., began his bobsled journey in 2020 under Walsh and fellow Air Force Special Operations Command teammate and athlete Capt. Dakota Lynch, a U-28 Draco Pilot.
“Being introduced to the sport by another ST member is an example of the quality of leadership in the community,” Beach said. “Having people like Major Walsh and Captain Lynch to walk me through the process has been key in getting me to where I am. It’s very rare that someone comes in and instantly masters the thrust and charge. It’s a process, but it’s a process I look forward to.
Both ST Operators are push athletes, using their explosive strength and precision to accelerate a two-man or four-man bob. In order to excel in this role, athletes must perform thousands of correct repetitions to ensure that every hundredth of a second counts. Although the physical training for this process is different from the physical training required for special ops missions, the mindset required is similar.
“The biggest thing about Special Tactics that translates to bobsledding is the mindset you gain from going through all the ST training,” Walsh said. “It’s that non-surrender, figuring out how to find a solution, finding a way to have a successful type mindset. There are days when it’s really tough and you have to do a lot of late night work on the sled and get up early the next morning to compete, so having that serious mindset is invaluable.
In addition to the “gritty” mindset, Special Tactics Operators are accustomed to being in extreme pressure situations where high levels of precision are required in rescue missions, aircraft control, or guiding aircraft. bombs on the targets, which in turn helps them as the athletes compete at the highest level. levels.
“To compete at this level requires the same focus and attention to detail as pre-mission preparation and mission execution,” Beach said. “(The bobsleigh), believe it or not, has a lot of parallels with the ST community.”
Unlike Walsh, Beach is not currently part of the World Class Athlete Program and still works as a full-time combat controller, continuing to train alongside his teammates at 22nd STS.
“Fighting at this level while retaining all the currency expected of us as operators is no easy task,” Beach said. “Scuba diving all day and jumping out of planes in the middle of the night isn’t the best recovery when I have to race with some of the best athletes in the country, but I found a way to make it work.”
In typical ST fashion, athletes and operators are determined to continue pushing themselves to the highest standard in all that they do. For example, last year Beach took on a popular internet fitness challenge at his squad in which he had to run a mile in under five minutes and squat 500 pounds in the same day. Not only did he rise to the challenge, but he ensured it was performed to the highest standards by using a certified professional race track and receiving an official review from USA Powerlifting judges to verify the squat.
Meanwhile, Walsh also had his eye on professional car racing and became the first active duty member to compete in the TC America Series, a touring car racing series in Virginia earlier this year. He ended up placing third overall among some of the best riders in North America.
Although the ST Airmen hope to represent their country on the Olympic stage, in 2022 for Walsh and 2026 for Beach, even more, they love the thrill of a good challenge and encourage others to pursue their goals no matter what.
“The best advice I can give anyone to accomplish anything they want to do is to start,” Walsh said. “There is never a perfect plan from the start. I can wait until the time is right or I can jump in when I’m at an 80% solution and see where I land. And if I fail, figure out how to fail better next time and eventually succeed. Just start building what you hope to do. Once you get started, you can figure things out as you go.
Walsh and Beach placed 6th overall in their last meet, despite some equipment issues. They will compete once again ahead of the 2022 Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, December 18-20.