Lowndes County - You could call it survival of the fittest. "It's very intense, a lot of hard work," said Joel Gentz, Air Force ROTC Student.
Hard work is an understatement. From sun up to sun down, its a non-stop routine of crunches, push ups, and most any kind of physical training you can think of. "This is a battle of the wills, how bad do they want it and do they have the right stuff," said Major Scott Shepard.
They're hoping to prove that they've got what it takes to become an Air Force Combat Rescue Officer. A Combat Rescue Officer leads personnel recovery missions and is responsible for making sure his fellow airmen are rescued from danger. "We're looking for a guy who wants to make sure that someone who's out there in the woodline by themselves, waiting to come home to his family, gets home safely," said Shepard.
They started with 20, now on the third day, they're down to twelve. At the end of the week, only the best of the best will make the cut. "This is our chance to show them that we want to be here as CRO's, this is our one chance, we get one shot," said Gentz.
As part of their training, the guys have to complete a six-mile run carrying a backpack filled with sandbags. It weighs about 45 pounds, but that's nothing compared to the load they have to carry in combat. "We're making sure the guys understand this is not a job where they'll be sitting at a desk or working on a flight line, they'll be out on the front lines leading troops," said Shepard.
Those who are selected this week still have a long road ahead. There's an intense 18 month training period before they can actually become an officer.
It may be one of the most challenging weeks they'll ever go through, but one thing makes it all worth while. "Knowing that I'll have the chance to lead the guys out here into the mission," said Gentz.
And the assurance that because of their leadership, their fellow airmen will make it home safely.