By Sgt. Jerry Saslav
3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division
BAGHDAD – It was so cold you could see your breath as approximately 60 Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Multi-National Division —Baghdad, gathered on Forward Operating Base War Eagle in Baghdad's Adhamiyah District for a trot ... a 5K Turkey Trot early Thanksgiving morning.
For most Americans, Thanksgiving is a time to gather with family and friends, eat too much food, take a nap, watch football, eat some more and watch more football.
"For a holiday that's about ... overconsumption, it's important that we counterbalance that a little bit with physical training," said Staff Sgt. Matthew Radcliffe, a native of Spring, Texas, a military policeman serving as a squad leader with the Military Police Platoon, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Special Troops Battalion, 3rd BCT, 4th Inf. Div., MND-B.
Americans from Santa Cruz, Calif., to Detroit, Mich., to St. Petersburg, Fla., also participated in Turkey Trots.
At 9 a.m. the Soldiers observed another holiday tradition.
"It's Thanksgiving, what else are we going to do besides eat turkey and play some football," said 1st Sgt. David Gonzalez, a native of Pueblo, Colo., who serves as the senior enlisted leader for Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd BCT, 4th Inf. Div., MND-B. "Since we can't be home, we give the guys the comforts of home, whatever we can."
And they did play flag football ... there were so many Soldiers who wanted to play that each game was kept to two 10-minute halves with a three minute half-time. Sections played each other. There was a lot of unit pride on the field; for the winners there were bragging rights; for the losers, the chance for a rematch.
The Soldiers kept playing football, even when the Thanksgiving feast was served.
"This isn't about Soldiering today, this is about being a good human being," said Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, a native Hattiesburg, Miss., who serves as the commanding general of the 4th Inf. Div., and MND-B.
Hammond met with the cooks and thanked them for all their hard work and work hard they did.
The troops feasted on roast turkey, baked ham, prime rib, Cornish hens, eight different side dishes and seven different desserts.
In keeping with a military holiday tradition, the enlisted Soldiers were served by their officers; a tradition the officers enjoyed.
"Most people just put food on a plate. I'm all about presentation. You've got to get the ham with the pineapple and the cherry, placed just so in its own slot," said Capt. Mike Poaletti, a native of Virginia, Minn., who serves as the commander of the HHT, 3rd BCT, 4th Inf. Div., MND-B.
While some Soldiers were eating, others were outside playing basketball, volleyball and of course football.
By the end of the day, a few brave souls ventured out to sing Karaoke and say goodbye to the holiday.
It started with a few Soldiers, and slowly more started to come forward.
"Only in the military can you sing Karaoke sober and get away with it," said one Soldier.