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380AEW Article

Pushing the Pace for Three O-5s

  • Published
  • By Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates
  • 380 AEW/PA

While deployed at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, many Airmen make personal goals to improve themselves, such as taking classes, volunteering, working on physical fitness and nutrition, among others. This was the case for three Airmen who have challenged themselves with improving their physical fitness.

Lt Col. Alfredo Laboy, 380th Expeditionary Mission Support Group deputy commander, Lt. Col Michael Bliss, 380th Expeditionary Maintenance Group deputy commander, and Lt Col. Dennis Knight, 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander, have all taken to accomplishing this goal through various running and endurance races.

For Lt Col. Alfredo Laboy, 380th EMSG deputy commander, it was the opportunity to test his endurance and stay in shape. Two of his personal goals are to run every single day and log 2,000 running miles during his year deployment at Al Dhafra Air Base.


“My initial goal was to run every single event hosted by our Expeditionary Force Support Squadron team to show support, but that morphed into something else,” said Laboy.


During his deployment thus far, he has completed 13 5K runs, a 9K run, the Air Force Half Marathon, the United States Marine Corps Full Marathon, 1 triathlon relay and ran 2 DANCON 25K marches. He is registered for the Dubai Full Marathon, and the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon in 2019.  


“Running is my personal time,” added Laboy. “It’s an opportunity to reflect on what’s next or what transpired the day before and get in shape in the process.  I’ve lost approximately 18 pounds since I arrived and have improved my Air Force Fitness score.”


Laboy motivates himself to run by dedicating each run to a different squadron. He wore the Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron patch during his first DANCON March, the Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron patch during the second one and dedicated his U.S. Marine Corps Full marathon to the EFSS.


“I started dedicating my running events to the squadrons in the EMSG,” added Laboy. “The feedback and appreciation I receive from the Airmen keeps me going.”

Even with his love for running, there are challenges that he still has to overcome.


“I'm 47 years old and although I hate to admit it; I realize that I'm not as young as I used to be,” added Laboy. “I've been running every single day since June 21, 2018.  There have been multiple times when I didn't feel like running but I just get over it and keep pushing.


“It’s never too late to find something that will improve your physical fitness,” said Laboy. “It’s a rough start, but if you stick to your plan you will be amazed at what you can accomplish. Whether it’s running, a Tough Mudder or Yoga, find something that will make you better and make it happen. You will look and feel better – guaranteed!” 


For Lt. Col Michael Bliss, 380th EMXG deputy commander, running offered the change he needed from his regular fitness routine.


Last year, he joined an online training community where he received training tips and race advice from amateur racers and pros.  


“I was looking for a sport I could do for a long time,” said Bliss. “The weight room was getting old and I wanted to compete against other people and endurance sports gives me that opportunity. In most races, you compete against people of your same age group and sex, such as 50-54 year-old males.”


Thus far during his deployment, he has registered for the Spinney 92K cycling challenge, the JLL Sprint Triathlon, and the Ironman 70.3 endurance races in Dubai. With races held almost every month at ADAB, he plans on taking advantage of those event to continue running during his deployment.


“I just turned 50, I’m a father of 4, and a grandfather of two,” added Bliss. “My biggest challenge at this age is recovery while still needing to put in the volume of training.


“It is hard to explain the feeling when you finish an endurance type of event,” said Bliss. “At first, you might feel the fatigue and pain from what you just accomplished, but that feeling fades quickly and you are left with a great since of accomplishment. I also like to get others involved and enjoy seeing them fall in love with endurance racing.”


Running has provided him with a lot of highs, but there have also been some lows.


“Training and the occasional fun race teaches you how to be resilient and overcome difficulties,” said Bliss. “On a 100-mile bike race I got two flats with only one spare tire on the bike. In another race my stomach rebelled and I had nutrition issues. In another race, there were seven-foot waves, I’ve never trained for that. Just like life, a race is never perfect but there are great times along the way.”


For Lt Col. Dennis Knight, 380th EAMXS commander, his goal was to keep up on fitness, set a solid example for others to follow, and keep busy with a hobby he can do while deployed for a year. He is a marathon runner who has recently completed his first triathlon and discovered his love for competitive biking.


“My biggest benefit has been learning something new that I've found I enjoy, and keeping me busy during my off time,” said Knight. “We all need goals and these triathlons have helped me establish and complete some.”


Knight is registered for a 96K bike race and another triathlon for 2019, both in Dubai.


“I’m 46 and my biggest challenge is time,” added Knight. “With 12-hour work days, 6 days per week, I have to get creative sometimes. Also, just being flat-out tired impacts my training sometimes. Some days, it's easy to get out and do physical training. Some days, I have to mentally and physically force myself. I know if I don't do it, I won't achieve my goals.” 


Knight believes in leading by example and strives to motivate others to accomplish their goals despite the challenges of a busy schedule and serving in an important role.


“Find something for self-improvement,” added Knight as a piece of advice to others. “I chose fitness since I have to do a PT test here and because I have a year to dedicate myself to it. Others may find education, an instrument or their faith. The bottom line is that we all have an opportunity to come here and focus on something to make us better with minimal distraction.”


“If we three old guys can do it, then so can our younger troops,” said Knight.