Resiliency tour makes stop at Malmstrom

  • Published
  • By Valerie Mullett
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
In the 10 years of fighting a war since the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, there have been hundreds of stories told focusing on heroics and bravery, kindness and compassion. For one former Army officer, losing a mentor to a firefight in Afghanistan in 2006 started the journey he is currently on.

Rob Powers founded the American300 Warrior Tours three years ago with a goal of helping connect great Americans with the troops serving in harm's way at remote and isolated areas of operation around the world. In doing so, he aims at raising the bar on the resiliency of the military and he has reached out to those stationed at more than 300 bases since its inception.

Malmstrom Air Force Base can now be added to that list.

The American300 Warrior Tour made a stop here Dec. 14 and the theme of the full day of one-on-one contact with Wing One Airmen was "Never Quit." Along with Powers to deliver the resiliency message were two very unique individuals. Chad Crittenden was volunteering with the tour for the first time; Mike Schultz had been on one other tour prior to this. Both gentlemen are partial leg amputees who chose to face their ordeals head on and turn their unfortunate situations into very positive ones.

"What Robi (Powers) has done to bring us here is to make sure we visit and are talking with the people who are kind of 'in the trenches;' that are underappreciated, really," Crittenden said. "These two bases (Minot and Malmstrom) exemplify that. They're out there and no one really pays much attention to them."

Prior to their stop at Malmstrom, the group visited Minot AFB, N.D.

Although the organization is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization, much of their support comes from the Armed Forces Entertainment Office.

"The American300 tour is one of those attempts to bring something to these (remote) areas," said Lt. Col. Michael Rakoczy, Air Force Global Strike Command's A1S-2. "You are not going to find two people that have more amazing stories to tell than these two young men. They do it in a way that people don't even realize there is an incredibly strong message being put right in front of them - and that's just the beauty of it."

Crittenden lost the portion of his leg to a rare and deadly form of cancer. Seeking treatment for a lump on the bottom of his foot in 2002, he learned his fate and was told amputation was necessary just below the knee. After making a speedy recovery, he completed a triathlon nine months after surgery. After nearly a year and a half of working towards his post-surgery maximum potential, he sent a tape to CBS to appear on the show "Survivor," and was selected to compete. He has been cancer free for more than seven years now and he belongs to several organizations where he acts as a motivational speaker.

Schultz lost his left leg above the knee due to injuries received in a racing accident in 2008. Since then, he has gone on to become the first in history to win ESPN winter and summer XGames Gold; competing in two different sports in the same year. He captured the MTX Super X Adaptive and SMB SnoCross Adaptive in 2010. He also designed his prosthetic, dubbed the "motoknee," that allows him to continue to compete.

"I am constantly looking for unique Americans that can come salute and honor America's heroes," Powers said. "It's one of our organization's mantras."

As a veteran himself, Powers is grateful to come back "to my brothers and sisters; to be able to honor my NCO who was killed in 2006 in a way that is so uplifting and empowering."

The choice to bring the two speakers he did on this particular tour seemed to be a good one.

"Chad and Mike are both very positive people who push forward, break through barriers and find ways to make their life, and the lives of others, better," said Craig Fitzkee, base organizer for the Malmstrom portion of their tour. "When you listen to their stories, you understand what motivates them and why they are successful. The adversity in their lives has not slowed them down, it has given them a new purpose."

While here, the threesome visited with more than 300 Airmen and stopped at work centers from a security forces guardmount to the Operations Group pre-departure briefings. They dined with the first sergeants and Airmen, and even got in on some holiday festivities at the Operation Holiday Cheer wrap-up party.

The mission they set out to tackle was an apparent success.

"The Airmen gravitated toward Chad and Mike at the end of every session to ask more questions," Fitzkee said. "The one common thing I heard was the Airmen would have liked to have had more time to spend talking with them."

That's not something you will hear at the end of a power point briefing.