June 30, 2016

Partly sunny

Rec center honored as Air Force facility for physical-fitness testing

MEDINA — Those four buff guys running around the indoor track at the Medina Community Recreation Center on Monday weren’t just trying to stay in shape.

They were being tested to see whether they qualified for enlistment in one of the Air Force’s special operations units.

Air Force Master Sgt. Gregory Waldheim, left, talks Monday to recruits about participating in a 500-meter special operations qualifying swim at the Medina Community Recreation Center. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY STEVE GRAZIER)

The recreation center was recognized Monday by the Air Force for providing a facility — at no cost — where special-operation recruits can undergo initial physical-fitness testing.

Staff Sgt. Elvin Rose, an Air Force recruiter based in Medina, said between 90 and 120 recruits come to the recreation center annually for testing. Those who pass can move on for training as combat control or pararescue specialists — the Air Force’s equivalent of the Army’s Green Berets and the Navy’s SEALs.

Rose presented a plaque Monday morning to Kurt Gehring, the recreation supervisor at the center.

“The location and quality of the facility has been a huge benefit to us over the years,” Rose said.

Gehring said the center also benefits from having the military use the facility over the past four years.

“People like to see soldiers walk through the door,” Gehring said. “It was nice to be recognized today.”

Rose said testing for special-ops positions at the recreation center is scheduled once a month by the Air Force, Rose noted.

Recruits from Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland participate in the exams.

Master Sgt. Gregory Waldheim, a special-ops recruiting liaison from Harrisburg, Pa., oversees the testing.

Waldheim said the tests are a challenge. To pass, recruits are required to finish a 500-meter swim in 15 minutes or less, run 1½ miles in approximately 10 minutes and do at least 54 pushups and six chin-ups.

“These guys are signing up to be professional athletes,” Waldheim said.

Four men were tested Monday.

“You go through months of training and lots of work to get here,” said recruit Beaux Berkshire, 20, of Canton.

Overall, only about one in 15 candidates pass the qualification test on their first attempt to reach the Air Force’s special-ops program, Waldheim said. Those who initially fail can take the exam multiple times, he said.

Of those who pass the initial testing, only about a quarter complete the Air Force’s combat control or pararescue program, which lasts up to 40 weeks following basic military training, Waldheim said.

Candidates enrolled in the training are taught counter-terrorism, foreign internal defense, humanitarian assistance and special reconnaissance.

Contact reporter Steve Grazier at (330) 721-4012 or sgrazier@medina-gazette.com.