Run because you can

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Dan Castiglia
  • 341st Medical Support Squadron commander
In an editorial entitled, "Never saw this coming...Lessons learned in trying times," former Air Force Personnel Center commander Maj. Gen. A.J. Stewart wrote, "Be fit, be strong and be healthy every day. Fitness is not about just passing the Air Force Fitness Test or deploying, it is about saving your life. A well-rested, strong body and a healthy diet can help you fight off tough challenges when they come." 

It was another beautiful fall day on Randolph Air Force Base, Texas. The sun was shining, the temperature was just right, and we were all gathered outside for an impromptu commander's call. We expected to hear pre-holiday well wishes, but we didn't expect to hear our seemingly invincible commander inform us that his doctors discovered a golf-ball sized tumor in his brain and he was preparing for surgery in a few days. We were all shocked; there was confusion, sadness, and tears throughout the audience. Our leader, the one who created a culture of fitness, who led by example, who annually scored a 100 on his PT test, and who issued Air Force "Excellence" running hats to Airmen (military and civilian) who scored 90 or above, was preparing for the fight of his life and he intended to win. 

One week after his surgery, he surprised everyone by walking into the base theater wearing a hoodie. He addressed the organization, thanked everyone for their well wishes and support and made a commitment to come back even stronger. His motivational and inspirational leadership positively influenced my life. The most inspiring words he shared with us, "Run not because you have to, run because you can," will stay with me forever.

What I learned from his story of resiliency was that we should not take our health for granted. If you are not a great runner, find an aerobic activity that allows you to be active and stay fit. When you exercise your mind and body, and know how to access the various resources to support your physical, mental, social, and spiritual fitness, you put yourself in a better position to fight off stress. You must be able to take care of yourself if you expect to take care of others and the mission. Taking care of yourself, taking care of others, fostering a climate where others take care of others, seeking assistance when needed, and making smart life decisions will contribute to healthier, stronger, and more resilient Airmen, families, and organizations.  

The best smartphone app that supports Comprehensive Airman Fitness is the Wingman Toolkit. It's free and I encourage all Airmen to download it today. It's an amazing resource that quickly connects you to a multitude of support systems.

The Wingman Toolkit website and mobile app is