Two Airmen assigned to the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) have been selected to compete with the USA Bobsled team in preparation for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Air Force Captains Dakota Lynch and Christopher Walsh haven’t secured a spot on the team that will represent the country in four years, but just the opportunity to try for one.
Capt. Lynch is a U-28A pilot with the 34th Special Operations Squadron. Compact enough to land on small, improvised runways, the U-28A provides insertion, extraction, and resupply services to Special Operations Forces (SOF). It can carry up to 10 troops or 3,000 lbs of equipment. Additionally, the aircraft can be outfitted with a variety of high-end surveillance sensor and conduct tactical airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) operations.
Capt. Walsh is a Special Tactics officer — a Combat Controller (CCT) officer — assigned to the 24th Special Operations Wing. Other than CCTs — who are attached to other SOF units and provide air-ground communications support (to include air traffic control, fire support, and command and control) — Special Tactics includes Pararescuemen (PJ), Special Operations Weather Technicians (SOWT), and Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) airmen.
Their training regime is comprised of a variety of sprinting and strength exercises. Since their ultimate goal is to push a 500 lbs bobsled to up 24 miles per hour in just 60 metres, they have to have extraordinary explosive strength. Capt. Lynch described the launching of bobsled as, “a metal and carbon fiber bullet rifling down an ice track at speeds of 85-95 miles per hour. It’s like a fast-moving jet with a monkey at the controls while getting in a fight with Mike Tyson.”
“If you want it bad enough, you’re going to do whatever it takes to be successful … that’s the grit of this sport,” said Capt. Walsh. “It takes four years of commitment to make yourself better with every opportunity and even then you’re never really quite there … you have to keep grinding.”
At this stage, the two men have undergone numerous tryouts and selections to determine their aptitude for the sport and their physical capabilities. First, it was rookie camps and local bobsled championships. As they outperformed their competition, they were invited to national team trials. And now they are at the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation North American Cup in Park City, Utah, trying to convince with their performance.
Their SOF background, however, has been beneficial to their training. Capt. Walsh said that their bobsled preparation, “relates pretty closely to the job because there’s days where you know it’s going to be tough.” And it takes uncommon dedication and perseverance to make it on the Olympic team. Capt. Walsh said that there isn’t room for error. They can’t be lazy or underperform in the gym. Doing so could be the “difference between me making the Olympic team or not,” he added.
Bobsled is a winter sport that has teams of two to four athletes making timed runs in a sleigh down narrow and twisting tracks covered in ice. Teams do numerous timed runs, which are then combined to calculate the final score and standing.