You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and interactive features. Starting at just 99c for 8 weeks.


Welcome to

Your source for Clark and Champaign counties’ hometown news. All readers have free access to a limited number of stories every month.

If you are a News-Sun subscriber, please take a moment to login for unlimited access.

breaking news

Ohio sues to recoup $604K it spent on tainted Enon water cleanup

Special ops recruits take plunge at YMCA

Springfield recruiters strike deal to meet increased need for trainees.

With washout rates said to be as high as 90 percent, the odds are against Seth Payton, Andy Lawson and Josh Rotroff making it through Air Force special operations training.

But a new arrangement between the Springfield Family YMCA and local Air Force recruiters will give the recent high school graduates a fighting chance.

At a time when special operations personnel are in high demand, recruiters in Springfield this year worked out a two-year contract with the YMCA at a cost of $2,000 to allow special ops recruits to use the facilities free of charge until they leave for basic training.

The hope is that those recruits will stand a better chance of graduating into an ultra-elite group of battlefield airmen.

Gaining regular access to a pool alone has been worth the money.

“It’s extremely valuable. It’s very hard to find a pool,” said Tech. Sgt. Chris Henderson, an Air Force recruiter in Springfield. “That’s where they make and break these guys.”

While Air Force special operations forces aren’t yet the household names that the Army’s Green Berets or Rangers and the Navy’s SEALs are, it’s no easier to join them.

Also, the need for them has never been higher, as the almost 12-year Global War on Terrorism has shown.

“Battlefields are getting smaller now,” Henderson said.

That has recruiters like the ones in Springfield trying to meet the demand for more special operators by sending guys — special ops remain men-only until 2016 — to training who might legitimately stand a shot at finishing.

“It’s very, very tough,” Henderson said. “You’re talking about the best of the best of the best of the best.”

Before the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a special operations liaison would visit basic training and ask if anyone was interested in trying out, Henderson said.

“They weren’t getting quality recruits then,” he said.

Now, hopefuls like Payton, Lawson and Rotroff have to try out for such special operations jobs as pararescue and combat air controller before they depart for basic.

“We’re sending people prepared for these jobs,” Henderson said.

In order to make the initial cut, potential recruits have to swim, run and do situps, pushups and pullups in a certain amount of time.

“To be in the door is an honor,” said Payton, 18, a 2013 graduate of Northeastern High School who wants to become an instructor specializing in survival, evasion, resistance and escape, or SERE.

Air Force recruiters in Springfield aim to recruit at least one person for special operations training each month, Henderson said.

Admittedly, they don’t know how many of their recruits actually make it into special ops.

“They’re out of our hands then,” he said.

Payton, Lawson and Rotroff met during tryouts, and it was suggested they work out together regularly and push each other. It’s uncommon, Henderson said, to have multiple special ops guys in this area getting ready to leave for basic simultaneously.

That was six months ago.

Now friends, they’ll soon leave almost one right after the other for basic, after which they’ll begin the special operations training that can last as long as two years.

“Those three are like the cream of the crop,” Henderson said. “They are dedicated. Those guys have a lot of heart.”

Rotroff, 20, a 2012 graduate of Southeastern High School, leaves Tuesday on his journey to become a special operations weather team specialist.

Lawson, 18, a 2013 graduate of Kenton Ridge High School, departs Oct. 29 with hopes of becoming a pararescueman, or PJ, the ranks of whom have been awarded more than 100 Silver Stars and the Medal of Honor.

The Air Force PJs are the subject of a National Geographic Channel series, “Inside Combat Rescue,” which, as Henderson explained, “was an awesome recruiting tool for us.”

Payton, who leaves Nov. 18, has appreciated being able to use the YMCA for free.

“Everyone I’ve met has set me up for success,” he said.

Local recruiting stations get an annual marketing allowance, Henderson said, and the decision was made this year to use it on a new partnership with the Y.

The Springfield Family YMCA has had similar contracts in the past, and also has one currently for local Marine recruits. But the new Air Force deal is specifically for special ops.

“The Y has a long history of involvement with military,” said Lowell Nees, interim CEO of the Springfield Family YMCA.

Payton, Lawson and Rotroff know the road ahead will be long and rough.

But Payton’s father, Springfield resident Dan Payton, already has seen a positive transformation in his son.

“I’m seeing for the first time in his life, he’s giving it his all,” Dan Payton said. “I’m seeing him reach his potential.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Community News

Dayton Air Show: Visitors turn out despite Thunderbirds cancellation 
Dayton Air Show: Visitors turn out despite Thunderbirds cancellation 

As the Vectren Dayton Air Show kicks off Saturday some visitors came to the show, unaware of Friday’s Thunderbird crash and cancellation of their performance Saturday. Michael Werchowski, 44, brought his 11-year-old son, Miles, hoping to see the Thunderbirds, but didn’t know they weren’t performing until he arrived at Dayton International...
LIVE COVERAGE: Saturday at the Vectren Dayton Air Show
LIVE COVERAGE: Saturday at the Vectren Dayton Air Show

The gates have opened and flights for the 2017 Dayton Vectren Air Show are scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. and will conclude around 4:15 p.m. Gates for Saturday’s show will close at 6 p.m. Saturday’s line-up will include flights from the following acts and others (times are approximate) Suzuki Extra 300 12:05 p.m. B-25 Doolittle Raid...
Clark Co. community turns into ‘Wellville’ for a day
Clark Co. community turns into ‘Wellville’ for a day

New Carlisle community members are welcomed to spend 'A Day in Wellville' Saturday morning at a one day health and wellness fair.  The fair will be held on Main and Washington Street from 10 a.m. to noon.  Clark County Combined Health District, and Family and Youth Initiatives got together with the New Carlisle Farmer's Market to provide...
Stafford happy to be grounded
Stafford happy to be grounded

I didn’t know it Thursday as I was driving south on Fountain Avenue, crossing the tracks at the Heritage Center and making a left into the parking lot next to the Hollenbeck-Bayley Conference Center. But for the first time in years, I was about to be grounded. MORE: Stafford: Distractions can turn thoughts in new directions The grounding was...
Dayton Air Show today: Here’s what we know
Dayton Air Show today: Here’s what we know

The Vectren Dayton Air Show is set to take off today with one a full line-up minus the headline act of the Air Force Thunderbirds. A two-seat F-16D Thunderbird fighter jet went off the runway Friday at Dayton International Airport and flipped onto a grassy area, trapping a pilot and a crew member inside until first responders could remove the two from...
More Stories