1st Lt. Erlyn Rudico, 10th Missile Squadron member (far right), gives a short safety briefing to members preparing to enter the Launch Control Center at B-02 MAF. From left to right are Robi Powers, American300 founder; Dan Caro, drummer; Todd Lodwick, five-time Olympian; Senior Master Sgt. Jerry Hall, 341st Communications Squadron first sergeant; and Capt. Christopher Tubesing, 10th MS flight commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Cortney Paxton)
Dan Caro, drummer, uses props held by Team Malmstrom members at B-01 Missile Alert Facility to make a beat with his drumsticks for those watching nearby. Caro plays the drums by holding one stick with a moveable thumb he received through surgery and by attaching the other stick to his arm with a wristband. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Cortney Paxton)
Todd Lodwick, five-time Olympian, puts his Olympic silver team medal around Airman 1st Class Korey Todd’s neck to show him how heavy it is and for a photo op. Lodwick has shared his silver medal with more than 10,000 troops around the world. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Cortney Paxton)
Todd Lodwick, five-time Olympian (far right), talks to three security forces members ‘deployed-in-place’ to C-01 Missile Alert Facility on Aug. 9. From left to right are Senior Airman Randy Fraticeli, 741st Missile Security Forces Squadron member; Airman 1st Class Korey Todd, 741st MSFS member; and Senior Airman Jeremy Merryman, 341st Missile Maintenance Squadron member. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Cortney Paxton)
Dan Caro uses the hand of Maj. Jason McCree, Air Force Global Strike Command public affairs, to show Airmen how doctors were able to give him a moveable thumb through surgery. Caro has undergone more than 80 surgeries following third-degree burns he received on more than 80 percent of his body as a toddler. He has since followed, and achieved, his dream of becoming a professional drummer. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Cortney Paxton)
Caro and Lodwick talk to Capt. Albert Chaney, 341st Operations Group missile combat crew commander (far right), and 1st Lt. Charles Howell, 341st OG deputy combat crew commander, about what it takes to be a missileer. Along with tours of two MAFs, Caro and Lodwick got to spend time with Malmstrom’s Explosive Ordinance Disposal team during their visit Aug. 9. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Cortney Paxton)
by Airman 1st Class Cortney Paxton
341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
8/17/2012 - MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- The American300 Warrior Tours "Never Quit" series stopped once again at Malmstrom Air Force Base Aug. 9 to bring the stories of two incredible individuals to the Airmen of this Air Force Global Strike Command base.
Founder of the American300 Warrior Tours, Robi Powers, brought with him Dan Caro and Todd Lodwick, both burn victims who overcame significant mental and physical challenges to live their dreams.
Caro, at 2 years old, suffered third-degree burns to more than 80 percent of his body and inhaled air heated to 5,000 degree Fahrenheit after the pilot light of a water heater ignited gasoline fumes. As years passed, Caro underwent more than 80 reconstructive surgeries, was connected to thousands of IVs, and experienced more than 150 doses of anesthesia. Besides being severely scarred from the burns, he lost his right hand and most of his left hand; but that didn't stop him from living his dream of becoming a professional drummer. By the age of 12, Caro began drumming by using a moveable thumb doctors gave him through surgeries and attaching the other stick to his arm with a wristband; by the age of 13, he was drumming professionally.
"I've been so fortunate in my life to have received tremendous service from folks," Caro said. "They've gone way above and beyond the call of duty whether they were medical providers, family, friends or even strangers off the street. So I take that gift they've given me and I try to pay it forward to whoever is willing to listen to that message. I really believe in the work that our Airmen and armed forces do because it gives me the freedom to do what I want to do. That is my mission; I've been paid, and I feel this is my journey to pay that inspiration forward."
Lodwick, on the other hand, dreamt of becoming a professional skier.
"As a kid, I wrote down on a list 'I want to be the best skier ever,'" Lodwick said. "I didn't know what that meant - I just knew that's what was at the end of the tunnel."
His journey to becoming a professional skier was delayed when he was 14 years old and a gasoline explosion left him with third-degree burns on his back and legs - just more than 30 percent. He spent months in therapy after surgeries, but was soon climbing the slopes again in a sport called Nordic Combined. He went on to win a World Championship gold medal and silver medal in the Winter Olympics, which he's attended five times currently. He brought his silver medal on his tour to Malmstrom to show the Airmen.
"This medal has gone around and been touched by almost 10,000 troops," he said talking to the Airmen. "It has more meaning now. ... It's not just an Olympic medal; it ties into the sacrifice you guys make every day. This medal represents the nation and excellence, and you're all a part of it."
"How many Olympic medals have brought so many happy memories to that many people?" Powers asked the Airmen. "That medal could go on its own tour and be its own spokesperson. It tells the story of all of you service members."
In 18 months, Lodwick hopes to be the first skier to land a spot on the Winter Olympics USA team six times; and he plans to do it for the troops.
Caro and Lodwick ate breakfast with the Airmen "deployed in place" to C-01 Missile Alert Facility. They shared their stories and used the opportunity to learn as much about the jobs MAF crew members do on a daily basis.
"You guys do a lot for us and we really appreciate it," Lodwick said. "But for me to be able to come out here and share my story as just a normal guy is simply amazing."
After breakfast, they headed to B-01 MAF where they toured the Launch Control Center and had lunch with the crew before heading to their last stop on the tour for a hands-on demonstration.
Caro and Lodwick were given a tour of Malmstrom Explosive Ordinace Disposal building before being transported to the range in a Bomb Squad emergency response vehicle. While at the range, they had a chance to operate an EOD robot and watch a controlled detonation set off by EOD Airmen.
Their time at Malmstrom was filled with learning experiences as well as the opportunity to inspire resiliency within members of Team Malmstrom. Caro and Lodwick shared their accomplishments with the Airmen and ultimately portrayed the meaning of "Never Quit."
"For me to have the opportunity to come to Malmstrom Air Force Base and this Global Strike Command base and see the troops ... do these jobs for the greater good of our country and show them some support and resiliency - that is the coolest thing," Caro said.