Aiming high: local servicemembers climb Mount Kilimanjaro

by Senior Master Sgt. Hollis Dawson
3rd Air Force Public Affairs

“Aim high” was the official Air Force slogan for more than 16 years. But for a group of local Air Force members, it’s more than a thing of the past; it’s their mission statement.

The USAF 7 Summit is a group of 12 officers dedicated to the challenge of reaching the highest points on all seven continents. The group recently took their first steps toward that lofty goal by successfully climbing Africa’s tallest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience” said Capt. Brooke Rinehart, aide de camp to the 3rd Air Force commander. “It took us four days to climb to the peak and two days to descend. With the glaciers on one side and the plains of the Serengeti on the other, the 360-degree summit view of Mount Kilimanjaro was a spiritual experience. ”

In addition to the massive dose of self-gratification associated with climbing the 19,336-foot Tanzanian peak, the group’s efforts March 10 significantly helped another group of people.

“Our efforts raised money for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation,” Captain Rinehart said.

The foundation provides full scholarship grants and educational and family counseling to surviving children of special operations members lost in operational or training missions.

All total, the group’s climb raised more than $6,200 for the foundation.

The group’s next target is Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America. They hope to accomplish that feat in late June.

The group is also planning to participate in the Marine Corps Marathon in October as well as the Annapurna Circuit, a 300-kilometer hike around the Annapurna mountain range in the Himalayas, in 2011.

Members of the USAF 7 Summit include Maj. Jason Kuhns, 86th Airlift Wing, Ramstein Air Base, Germany; Capt. Brooke Rinehart, 3rd Air Force, Ramstein; Capt. Siobhan Celusta, 86th Airlift Wing, ; Capt. Aaron Celusta, 52nd Fighter Wing, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany; Capt. Trevor Gunderson, 86th Airlift Wing; Capt. Sean McKee, 86th Airlift Wing; Capt. John Foy, 86th Airlift Wing; Capt. Jennifer Wolf, 86th Airlift Wing; Capt. Jason Pruitt, 52nd Fighter Wing; Capt. Jen Kissel, 86th Airlift Wing; Capt. Lisa Ballas, 86th Airlift Wing, and 1st Lt. Wes Manus, 3rd Air Force.