News: Santa makes a run for it at JBB
Story by Sgt. Keith Vanklompenberg
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — Service members, civilians and Santa braved the cold to participate in the Reindeer Run 10K Dec. 19 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.
Christmas music played on the speakers at Holt Stadium as runners arrived before the sun appeared, to warm up with a 10K while Santa ran and danced with them.
Races are common at JBB, but this one aimed to be a bit different, said Sgt. Austin Nightingale, an executive administrative assistant with the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), who hosted the event.
Nightingale, a Missoula, Mont., native, said he decided to double the length of the average race here at JBB and use a completely different course.
"I'm a runner myself and I wanted to do something different," he said. "The 10-miler was a bit long, so this seemed like a good compromise."
Nightingale said the 13th ESC, which sponsored the event, received a generous donation from Pure Sport, which supplied towels, water bottles and hundreds of post workout recovery drinks.
Col. Fredrick Brown, assistant chief of staff for operations with the 13th ESC and a Natchez, Miss., native, gave the opening remarks just before the sun began to rise, laughing as he did so.
"I want you to remember this day in 10 years," he said. "Someday you'll be telling your grandchildren about the day you ran the JBB 10K."
Santa Claus followed Brown to the podium and provided the crowd with a safety briefing and a promise to pose for pictures afterward.
The race started with Santa and Brown sprinting ahead of hundreds of service members and civilians, but Santa quickly dropped out to provide encouragement to the runners in the form of dancing.
"I only know one dance," said Santa, whose true identity is Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Kohles, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Iraqi Security Forces linguists with the 13th ESC.
Kohles, an Apalachin, N.Y., native, said he enjoyed making appearances for service members as Santa.
"This just cheers them up during the holidays," he said. "I give them a chance to laugh."