BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — Service members from the four branches of the military joined forces, April 25, and tackled the Bagram Air Field Country Music Marathon, with a team time of 3:29:34.
Each member of team "Joint Task Force" ran 6.6 miles each to complete the marathon relay, placing 2nd in the team relay category.
Army 1st Lt. Christina J. Nielsen, the Headquarters and Headquarters Company's executive officer, pulled together members from different services for the race.
The rest of the team consisted of Air Force Senior Airman Steven Doty, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing, Marine Staff Sgt. Brian Buckwalter of Armed Forces Network, and Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Barb from the Combat Service Support Automation Management Office.
"It [the relay] breaks up the monotony of being deployed," said Buckwalter. "We're pretty excited that we've done our best personally but we're even more thrilled to find out we had actually placed."
Nielsen said on the day of the race she was "pumped" to get out there and work with her fellow teammates; however, she was initially apprehensive knowing she was the slowest person on her team. With strong encouragement from her teammates she knew there was no way she could fail, she said, adding that the relay race was more about cohesion and unity and less about winning.
After Barb completed his leg of the relay, Nielsen started her trek. After catching his breath during a short break, Barb caught up with Nielsen and ran with her "step-for-step" the rest of the way, just like he had every Saturday leading up to the race.
"Whatever time we lacked Doty made it up with a 32-minute, 6.6 mile run," said Nielsen. "The best part during the run is when I felt tired or weak, I had Buckwalter waiting for me to carry us through the rest of the race."
Afterward, Nielsen said the event was invigorating and gave her a sense of purpose and pride.
"I am greatly honored to work with and know each member of the branch and would do anything to support them," said Nielsen. "I think the best part was waiting at the finish with all of the other members and watching Doty come 'flying' in to the finish line. It was a great feeling to know that we not only accomplished our mission by sending a message, but to do it with a passion."
For Buckwalter the relay gives him a sense of camaraderie and exhilaration.
"It's good to have service rivalries, but this is not about Army, not about the Marines or any other service," he said. "It's about coming together to accomplish the mission."