Military bonds forged in the adversity of training and the rigors of combat are hard to break. When a warrior falls, his memory lives forever with his brothers in arms. Since 9/11, a popular way to commemorate fallen warriors has been to organize physically and mentally demanding events that resonate with the fallen warrior’s background.
Meet the Maltz Challenge.
Named after Master Sgt. Michael Maltz, a pararescueman (PJ) who was killed in action in 2003 in Afghanistan in a combat-rescue mission, the Maltz Challenge is a team competition composed of:
- 400-meter run
- 50 pull-ups
- 100-yard fireman’s carry
- 50 dips
- 100 push-ups
- 50 knees-to-elbows
- 100 sit-ups
- 400-meter run
This year’s winning team finished the events with an overall time of 20:16.
The challenge was first organized by the airman’s family in conjunction with a group of Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents. By developing the challenge, the Maltz family and the DEA agents wanted to honor the memory and sacrifice of all war-fighters who have paid the ultimate price during the Global War on Terror. The challenge takes place once a year in March.
On that fateful March 2003 day, Master Sgt. Maltz and his Guardian Angel brothers, the nickname of Air Force search-and-rescue crews, were responding to a call for an urgent medical evacuation of two Afghani children with head injuries. Their HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter crashed on a mountainside during an air-refueling operation.
This year’s Maltz Challenge, which was the 13th challenge, was hosted by the 351st Special Warfare Training Squadron, which is the Pararescue School, also known as the “Superman School” because of its extremely arduous demands. The event was more poignant than usual considering Capt. Mark Weber had participated in the same event a few years before. Captain Weber, a combat rescue officer assigned to the 38th Rescue Squadron, was killed in a helicopter crash in Iraq on March 15, 2018.
“Capt. Mark Weber did this challenge with us three years ago,” said Master Sgt. Aaron Love, the 351st Special Warfare Training Squadron operations superintendent, in an interview with DVIDS. “He had zero ego and was the most humble guy that you could find on the face of the planet. He was always looking out for the guys and was always doing everything that he possibly could for this career field. He is sorely missed.”
“Mark was incredible,” Camille Martinez, a personal friend of Captain Weber, told DVIDS. “He was probably one of the closest friends that I had, or ever will have. He loved God and showed me that with all his heart. He would probably impart to them how serious the mission is and how much of a servant’s heart you have to have to do a job of a pararescueman.”
The motto of the PJs is “So That Others May Live,” underscoring their commitment to self-sacrifice and to saving lives.