News: Cold Turkey Trot held at Bagram
Story by Sgt. Scott Davis
By Spc. Scott Davis
Combined Joint Task Force - 101
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – Over 600 Soldiers participated in a Cold Turkey Trot run held at Bagram, Nov. 20, to raise awareness of the many resources available to people trying to quit tobacco.
"We, in the military, have a lot of people who are addicted to nicotine, both through smoking and smokeless tobacco," said Maj. Heidi Whitescarver, a public health nurse in the Command Joint Surgeon's office for Combined Joint Task Force - 101. "This event brings that fact to light. I just wanted to have one day to say 'hey, if there's people out there who want to quit, there are people here on BAF [Bagram Air Field] and around Afghanistan that are willing to help them do that."
Whitescarver, an Anchorage, Ala. native, coordinated the run and also created a proclamation that was signed by the commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force - 101, officially declaring Nov. 20, as the CJTF-101 tobacco free day. According to Whitescarver, the proclamation also talks about the resources available to help individuals who want to quit tobacco.
The "Great American Smokeout Day" was the perfect opportunity for Whitescarver to express her devotion to the health of Soldiers, urging all tobacco users to quit for just one day.
"I don't badger anyone," Whitescarver said. "I only provide positive support and positive resources to help people quit tobacco if they choose to. If you want to help someone, you have to wait until they're ready."
Whitescarver has devoted her 14 years in military toward the health of Soldiers and civilians alike. During her first deployment to Haiti, she noticed the poor health conditions of the local population, making her more involved in her work.
"The things that can be done to increase someone's health in that kind of situation are very basic, like showing them how to clean water or giving them access to clean water," Whitescarver said. "After that experience, I continued to do traditional hospital nursing for a while and then went on and became a public health nurse. Now I've kind of devoted myself to the health of Soldiers, but in this particular situation I get to treat Afghans as well."
The tobacco free day took Whitescarver and several others three months to plan and coordinate. According to Whitescarver, she voluntarily designed the T-shirt, created the proclamation, planned the run and got everything approved by the surgeon's office and the commanding general. The run was the center of the planning.
"Really it was the title. We were trying to be clever in calling the run the Cold Turkey Trot," Whitescarver said. "Studies have shown that quitting 'cold turkey' seems to be the best. So we planned the run in conjunction with our tobacco free day along with the tobacco secession class that we're starting to offer."
Whitescarver received emails from participants who said everything went perfectly and they had a really good time.
Staff Sgt. Kevin Kraft, Charlie Company, 101st Division Special Troop Battalion, 101st Airborne Division, has a team of seven Soldiers who all quit smoking on Nov. 19 and ran the Cold Turkey Trot.
"It feels good to quit smoking and to have my whole team to do it," Kraft said. "I was really proud of everyone including myself."
Whitescarver had one thing to say to non-smokers trying to help others quit. "Stay positive and stay supportive," she said. "A former surgeon general of the United States said 'nicotine is as addictive as heroin. Quitting tobacco is one of the hardest habits to break."