Battlefield Airmen: GFAFB Airmen work together for a common goal

Senior Airman Joshua L. Coonich, 319th Medical Operations Squadron flight medicine medical technician, holds his breath underwater April 18, 2015 on Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. Coonich is practicing his water confidence training before he leaves for pararescuman training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Sparks/released)

Senior Airman Joshua L. Coonich, 319th Medical Operations Squadron flight medicine medical technician, holds his breath underwater April 18, 2015 on Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. Coonich is practicing his water confidence training before he leaves for pararescuman training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Sparks/released)

Senior Airman Joshua L. Coonich, 319th Medical Operations Squadron flight medicine medical technician, swims a lap at the Aquatic Center April 18, 2015, on Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. Coonich, a Schaumburg, Ill. native, is preparing for his pararescuman training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Sparks/released)

Senior Airman Joshua L. Coonich, 319th Medical Operations Squadron flight medicine medical technician, swims a lap at the Aquatic Center April 18, 2015, on Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. Coonich, a Schaumburg, Ill. native, is preparing for his pararescuman training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Sparks/released)

Senior Airman Joshua L. Coonich, 319th Medical Operations Squadron flight medicine medical technician, flips a tire April 18, 2015, on Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. Coonich, a Schaumburg, Ill. native, leads training sessions for a small group of Airmen attempting to transfer into a Battlefield Airman career field. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Sparks/released)

Senior Airman Joshua L. Coonich, 319th Medical Operations Squadron flight medicine medical technician, flips a tire April 18, 2015, on Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. Coonich, a Schaumburg, Ill. native, leads training sessions for a small group of Airmen attempting to transfer into a Battlefield Airman career field. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Sparks/released)

Senior Airman Joshua L. Coonich, 319th Medical Operations Squadron flight medicine medical technician, and Air Force Staff Sgt. Adam Stelmack, 319th Operations Support Squadron NCO in charge of airfield management operations, perform box jumps using tires as a platform April 18, 2015 on Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. Coonich and Stelmack are members of a group of Airmen dedicated to training for a Battlefield Airman career field. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Sparks/released)

Senior Airman Joshua L. Coonich, 319th Medical Operations Squadron flight medicine medical technician, and Air Force Staff Sgt. Adam Stelmack, 319th Operations Support Squadron NCO in charge of airfield management operations, perform box jumps using tires as a platform April 18, 2015 on Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. Coonich and Stelmack are members of a group of Airmen dedicated to training for a Battlefield Airman career field. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Sparks/released)

GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Many young Americans join the Air Force with great aspirations. They desire to be a part of the Air Force elite; they want to be Battlefield Airmen. What they don't realize is that it takes dedication and years of hard work to reach that goal. The training will push you to the brink and test your resiliency. The work you put in before the training begins can make all the difference.

Senior Airman Joshua Coonich, 319th Medical Operations Squadron flight medicine medical technician journeyman, and Staff Sgt. Adam Stelmack, 319th Operations Support Squadron NCO in-charge of Airfield Management Operations, have dedicated their lives to becoming Battlefield Airmen.

The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force website describes Battlefield Airmen as "extensively-trained, volunteer Airmen who provide unique air and space power expertise in a land combat environment, often far into hostile territory." The website goes on to list some of the responsibilities as surveillance, weather forecasting, airfield surveying, air traffic control, directing air strikes, airdrop marking, trauma care and personnel recovery (including downed aircrews).

Coonich and Stelmack are part of a group of Grand Forks Air Force Base Airmen that train and support each other's desire to transfer into a battlefield Airman career field. The group consists of potential combat controllers, pararescumen, tactical air control parties and Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) specialists.

Coonich, a Schaumburg, Ill. native, said he researched all the branches of military to see what they had to offer. After reading the Air Force Pararescumen motto, "These Things We Do, That Others May Live," Coonich said he knew what he wanted.

"Their motto embodied everything that I ever wanted to be as a person," said Coonich.

Stelmack, a Columbus, Ga. native, said he has wanted to be a controller since he was a kid. He is hoping to cross-train into combat control.

People with similar goals don't always have the same reason for pursuing that goal.

Coonich quoted Thomas Paine saying, "I prefer peace, but if trouble should come let it come in my time that my children know peace."

"I want the future to be better for our children. I want people to come home to their children," said Coonich. "I want people to have the opportunity to see their son's first steps or have the opportunity of marrying their first wife or finding love."

Stelmack said he feels that combat controllers can be the deciding factor in a battle and he wants to be a part of that elite group.

"In the Air Force, decisive victories are won over command and control," said Stelmack.

Coonich and Stelmack have both been working towards their goal for years and haven't allowed any setbacks to stop them.

They were both told that their eyesight wasn't good enough to be a battlefield Airman when they joined the Air Force. Each of them made the decision to get a photorefractive keratectomy. PRK is a corrective eyesight operation. Coonich and Stelmack said the procedure allowed them to qualify for the battlefield Airmen career they wanted.

Coonich reached out to other Airmen on Grand Forks AFB to create a Battlefield Airmen training group. He said having a group of like-minded people working together can give that extra edge that working alone doesn't provide.

It makes it much easier to train when you have a group of people all shooting for the same goal, said Stelmack.

Stelmack said he has been working out with Coonich for a little more than a month, noting that it's nice having someone that is a stronger swimmer to help him grow at that aspect.

Coonich and Stelmack have been training hard for many years.

"It's my life ambition," said Coonich. "If I complete it I would have accomplished the thing I wanted to do most in my life."

"It's not going to take anything I'm not prepared to do or haven't already been doing for the last eight years," said Stelmack.

Coonich and Stelmack have very similar views on what it takes to achieve any goals in life.

"You're going to have to find out whether or not you want to quit and the answer is always no," said Coonich.

"Don't quit. Don't give up. It's human nature to question yourself," said Stelmack.  "You have to realize that everyone has a bad day."

Coonich has already been accepted to pararescumen training. He said he is scheduled to leave in May for training. Stelmack has submitted his application for combat control and will possibly find out if he is accepted next month.

Both men have prepared for years and feel that they are ready for the next step in their training. They will face many new challenges. Stelmack said he's only nervous about one thing.

"I never saw the sense in jumping out of a perfectly good plane," said Stelmack.

Only time will tell if Coonich, Stelmack and the other members of the group will successfully complete the training for Battlefield Airmen, but they have put in the work to be prepared. They have come together as wingmen to work towards their common goal. The hardest part of their training is in front of them, but Coonich has advice for all Airmen striving to succeed.

"Find that one thing in life that you really want to pursue and work hard for it," said Coonich. "That one thing to me is I want to be pararescue; it's my life goal, I can't give up. I've worked five hard years for this and now that I'm almost at the finish line, quitting now wouldn't make sense at all."