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Two long-time wingmen seize international sports victory

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jason Wiese
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs
Two Air Force Global Strike Command lieutenants have found a way to get air time even though they serve in career fields that, under normal circumstances, do not require they ever leave the ground.

Second Lt. Rachel Herald, 90th Logistics Readiness Squadron installation deployment officer, and 1st Lt. Zachariah Wood, 509th Comptroller Squadron Budget Analyst, 509th Bomb Wing, Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, compete in high jump competitions.

Recently in Amsterdam, at the Headquarters Allied Air Component Command Track and Field Championship, they competed for the U.S. Air Forces in Europe team and took home first place in the men's and women's high jump respectively, beating out competitors from Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Poland, Belgium and fellow Americans. Wood won with a jump of 6 feet 4 inches, and Herald won with a jump height of 5 feet 4 inches.

Making the victory sweeter, Wood and Herald have known each other for years, being friends since their early days at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Herald said. Wood attended the academy from 2009 to 2013, and Herald attended the academy from 2010 to 2014.

"It was a great experience to be able to have someone I know to share that experience with," Herald said. "He's a pretty good jumper so I was confident he would win as well. That's pretty cool that the U.S. was able to sweep the high jump, especially since it was with one of my best friends."

USAFE accepted Airmen from throughout the Air Force to compete for their team. To take part in the competition, both lieutenants had to apply and be accepted onto the team. Since both competed in the high jump at the academy, they both made the team. In fact, Herald is the record-holder for the women's high jump at the academy with a jump height of 5 feet, 10 inches.

Herald said she signed up because of her love of competition and the high jump.

"I just love the atmosphere of track and field and meeting new people," she said.

What made this competition different was we were outside of our comfort zone," Wood said.

Wood went on to say that prior to the competition, he and Herald had a lengthy bus ride, which is not conducive to excellent athletic performance.

Both competitors expressed a love for the sport.

"I guess for me, I like to jump because when I was a kid I liked to fly," Wood said.

Wood said he has been a high jumper since fifth grade and has competed many times.

Coming from a rural upbringing and six generations of farmers in Bowen, Illinois, Wood had family who owned planes for use on their farms, he said. This led to a love of heights in the lieutenant.

"I also like to dunk when I play basketball, things like that," he laughed.

Likewise, Herald expressed her enjoyment of the sport she grew to love in her Rockford, Michigan, hometown.

"It goes by so quick," she said. "Once you jump, it's probably a second or two and then you're on the mats. Really your approach is the most important part. There's a lot of technical work that goes into high jump, which is why I like it."

Since both competitors belong to AFGSC organizations, they received a lot of questions and interest about the nuclear deterrence mission, and they used the time as an opportunity to share their mission, Wood said.

On the other side of the coin, the experience of being overseas in a foreign environment is invaluable, said Lt. Col. Ross Sutherland, 90th LRS commander, who said he knows Herald well.

"It definitely was a great opportunity for Lt. Herald, and for her to win first place there definitely brings back a sense of pride, not only for herself, but for the squadron," he said. "That exposure and opportunity only lends itself to improvement within her own work area."

Within each Air Force organization, Airmen have a variety of talents they bring to the fight, he said.

"Whether it's athleticism, whether it's academic -- it runs the gamut," he said, "it is very important to develop them professionally and personally, and that also helps strengthen the Air Force as a whole."

Unfortunately, for high jumpers, their win is bittersweet, Wood said. No matter how high they jump, in their minds they are always raising the bar.

"If you clear it, you can keep moving up," he said.

This type of philosophy will serve them well in the U.S. Air Force as they continue to pursue the excellence required by our core values.