By Spc. Courtney Marulli
2nd BCT, 2nd Inf. Div. Public Affairs
FORWARD OPERATING BASE RUSTAMIYAH, Iraq – Too often the fun things in life are forgotten and cast aside during a deployment.
The focus is always on the mission and battle rhythms give little time for personal endeavors, but one battalion decided to make things fun for its Soldiers and give them a little piece of that summer fun they would have at home.
The 2nd Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division hosted an organizational day on June 16 for its Soldiers. Events were scheduled all day, but to kick things off, the battalion, in joint effort with Morale, Welfare and Recreation, ran a satellite race in conjunction with the same foot race occurring back in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Sgt. 1st Class Duane France, the truck master for Company A, 2nd BSB, knew that the 29th Annual Sailin' Shoes was going to occur and wanted to give other runners like himself, the chance to participate in their hobby.
France, a native of St. Louis, ran in Sailin' Shoes last year and knew Malie Gray, the race's coordinator. Together, Gray and France organized the Iraq Sailin' Shoes to coordinate with the regular race.
"It's the event that kicks off their spring festival," France said of the race's impact on the Colorado Springs Festival. "I ran it last year and had a great time."
The Colorado Springs and Baghdad Sailin' Shoes races occurred simultaneously, but the Iraq race was done to honor the Army's birthday. Sailin' Shoes donated water, runner's numbers, finish line equipment, bumper stickers, key chains and T-shirts for the race, France said. The sponsor's of Sailin' Shoes are Runner's Roost and the Pikes Peak Road Runners Association, both in Colorado Springs.
Running aside, France said the support they received from Sailin' Shoes and others back home reaches beyond the walls of the Forward Operating Base. Toys, which included paddle balls and bubbles, were collected in an effort to give Soldiers something to hand out to the Iraqi children.
Gray, received a lot of support from people at Fort Carson, Colo., France said. Gray is a member of the Colorado Springs Police Department and a safety coordinator at Fort Carson.
With all the support they received, this made the Iraq Sailin' Shoes the first 5K race on FOB Rustamiyah this deployment, France said.
"The turnout was actually more than I expected," he said.
With a cap of 100 people, France said he expected around 75 people. Instead, there were approximately 90 people who showed up to run and take a moment away from focusing on combat missions
"It's important for veteran runners who have been running for years," France said of racing. "It's a connection to a hobby."
But, the race wasn't only for veteran runners; it was open to all skill levels. Beginners were able to get a taste for how races are conducted and may just end up making it a hobby of their own.
"That's how I got started," France said.
An Army friend took him to a three mile race and ever since, France said he has enjoyed the competition and camaraderie involved with racing.
Runners everywhere know the importance of hydration, but France said conditions of combat made this race unique. When racing packets were handed out, a mortar attack occurred. Also, the race couldn't occur at 1600, in order to be run simultaneous with the morning run back home due to the heat.
With this race under his belt, France said he wants to put on others. Even the runners themselves are ready for more races.
"I heard people talking about it and they're looking forward to it," he said. "It's a break from the current, normal routine, and it ties back to the hobby back in the United States."
Personally, France said he enjoyed it because it boosted his morale and the logistical work to put on a race is something he looks forward to organizing again.
"The guys who ran want to do it every month," France said of the popularity of the run. "I look to do it once every other month."
Coordinating the race is a large responsibility, but France said it was a job made easier due to the help he received from several volunteers.
"I just really appreciate the work of all the volunteers," he said. Laughing, he added, "They did it with a minimal amount of grumbling than they normally would."
The support he received from MWR, the runners, volunteers and the command allowed the event to run smoothly.
"I just appreciate everyone's effort," he said. "It makes me happy that they're happy."
The rest of the organizational events included horseshoes, dominoes, tug-of-war, volleyball and basketball.
This work, Day of fun starts with run, by SPC Courtney Marulli, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.