For some, running is a hobby to keep in shape. For others, it’s an escape. For Spc. Mathew Chesang, running is a way of life.
“When you are out there, you just run and communicate with nature, you just have fun,” Chesang said.
A native of Kenya, Chesang is a distance runner. And while his fellow soldiers agree he could devote his time in the Army solely to running, he instead turned his focus to the greater good.
Just like logging miles upon miles running on the road, Chesang puts that same hard work and dedication into being a crew chief of the OH-58 Delta Romeo helicopters and making sure U.S Army aircraft remains safe and effective.
‘You will get better’
Chesang was born and raised in Eldama Ravine, Kenya. After playing field hockey and soccer, he started getting serious about running in 1998. Chesang’s brother had a major influence on his running career.
“When we started running, I wasn’t very good,” Chesang said. “My brother kept telling me, ‘you will get better’ and told me to keep training harder.”
Chesang’s brother’s influence, paired with his dedication, earned him a scholarship to run at Kansas State University in 2001. While at Kansas State, Chesang studied business management and was named an All-American cross country runner.
After graduation, Chesang worked in customer care for Garmin in the Kansas City metro area. He then joined the U.S. Army in March 2012. Chesang turned to the Army for the diverse and promising job opportunities.
“I wanted to have a career and the Army has good careers,” Chesang said.
Motivated on, off the track
Chesang is a 15 Sierra, or crew chief, on OH-58 Delta Romeo helicopters. Sgt. John Culqui was impressed with what Chesang brought to the 1st Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade.
“He is a hard worker; he is learning at a good pace. He is motivated and very respectful with his NCOs and comrades,” Culqui said.
Chesang brought something special to the CAB – motivation.
“A lot of the guys are trying to do the same thing (distance running),” Culqui said. “He has actually motivated a lot of the Soldiers. Personally, I want to do the same thing like him. I want to run as fast as he does. He actually motivates everyone in the troop.”
“I see a lot of good stuff in the future for him,” Culqui said. “As a runner, if he keeps doing whatever he is doing right now, he will be one of the fastest in the country. Professionally, if keeps doing what he’s doing right now, he can be a great mechanic and a great NCO. He is going to get promoted sometime in the future.”
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Nathan Smith, 1st Sqdn., 6th Cav. Regt., and Chesang ran against each other in college. Now the two work together in the CAB.
“I raced him when I was running for Missouri,” Smith said of his time in college. “He’s continued to run, I’ve continued to get slower.”
Being a long distance runner, Smith can relate to Chesang’s work ethic.
“Pretty common to distance runners is having that hard work,” Smith said. “They’re a little bit crazy, very stubborn in work ethic. They put in hours a day in their running, and that carries over into their lifestyle and that type of effort and motivation is what he puts into the aircraft and into other aspects of the Army. I’m happy he is ours.”
“He’s been an example for us, as far as hard work and training,” Smith said. “Give the man credit, he puts himself on the road every single day and continues to get faster. He’s a motivation to everybody here. What he did up at the (Army) 10-Miler, that’s incredible.”
An impressive record
Chesang helped “Big Red One” soldiers take third place in the 2012 Army 10-Miler in Washington, DC. Chesang placed 27th overall out of more than 30,000 runners. He took sixth place in the 30 to 34 age division, which boasted 1,875 runners. The 31-year old clocked a time of 52:14.
At Fort Riley’s 2013 Victory Week 10-Miler, Chesang crossed the finish line first. His time was 56:16.
“He could easily be running for the Army,” Smith said. “That could be his primary MOS, but he is here working on aircraft, understanding that there is a larger mission at stake and at the same time maintaining incredible fitness. He is an inspiration for sure.”
The writer is on the staff of the 1st Infantry Division public affairs office.