Michael Battaglino pulled his weight, and a few tons more, Saturday afternoon to help a friend in need.
The Sheppard Air Force Base civil service instructor pulled the Wichita Falls Fire Department’s fire engine four 50 feet three times in front of Pitsenbarger Fitness Center to raise money to help pay medical bills for his friend and mentor, retired Air Force Col. Shawn “Norm” Pederson.
Last September, Pederson suffered a cerebral aneurysm.
“I wanted to not only talk to people about how (Pederson) affected my life and how he mentored me, but I wanted them to see what you can do for another person and how far you can push yourself,” Battaglino said.
A Strong Man competitor and powerlifter, Battaglino said he has pulled dump trucks before, but Saturday was his first time to pull a firetruck, outside of a few test runs with a SAFB firetruck three weeks ago.
A crowd of family, friends, airmen and SAFB top brass — including Brig. Gen. Patrick J. Doherty — lined the street outside of Pitsenbarger to watch and cheer Battaglino during his feat — many with their smartphones out capturing each pull.
“It’s really nice having the support of the leadership on base and all of the airmen,” he said. “I had a lot of my peers and friends out there. I didn’t want to let them down, and I wanted to let them see something cool for a good cause.”
Battaglino did have a little trouble on his first pull, though. The road he pulled the truck on was not completely flat, leaving him pulling the truck uphill at first rather than straight ahead. After adjusting his pull’s direction to the opposite side of the road more level, he quickly completed his three pulls within 10 minutes of each one.
“It’s all about that initial start,” Battaglino said. “That’s the hardest part, but once you get moving you have to keep it going. It’s hard to describe how you feel during and after, it’s a total body kind of drain, especially after the last one.”
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