EL PASO, TX, UNITED STATES
FORT BLISS, Texas – A sea of orange stretches back from the starting line of the annual Army-10 Miler in the Heat here, as runners, wearing their brightly colored race shirts, stretch and warm-up in anticipation of the iconic crack of the starter’s pistol.
For the last few weeks, fliers have been placed in local newspapers, photos have been published on Facebook and registration for the race has been coordinated with various units throughout Fort Bliss and the El Paso community.
To the competitors, all this work may have gone unnoticed; and that may be the intention. Racers need to concentrate on running, because 10 miles is not a short distance for anyone.
Enter, then, the volunteer. The unsung heroes of the events put together by Fort Bliss Morale, Welfare and Recreation, and Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers. Volunteers help share the load of these events, most of which are free.
First Lt. Josh Trenkel, a 27-year-old engineer assigned to 16th Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, here, ran the 10-Miler himself and said the race could not have been done without the support of the volunteers.
“Without the volunteers here to help set up and run an event, “said Trenkel, a native of Ontario, Ore. “then something like this wouldn’t be possible.”
The volunteers themselves have many and varied reasons for donating their personal time to MWR and BOSS events. Sometimes it may be beneficial to that Soldier’s career path, such as by earning the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal. Other times, it may earn that Soldier an extra day off the following week.
Staff Sgt. John Benitez, a field artillery firefinder radar operator assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 2nd BCT, 1AD, said he volunteers because as a non-commissioned officer, he leads from the front.
“I look out for my Soldiers, I take care of my Soldiers, I volunteered for my Soldiers.” said Benitez, a 38-year-old native of Racine, Wis. “I remember what it was like when I was a single Soldier coming up through the ranks. I remember all the fun I had in the BOSS program. This is how I give back.”
At various water points around the race route, Soldiers handed out water and encouragement to the runners. Some, like Spc. Davis Karran, a 20-year-old health care specialist assigned to 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd BCT, 1AD, said he volunteers because he knows what it’s like to run in events, and every little bit counts.
“I’ve been on both sides of the fence,” said Karran, a Pittsburgh, Pa., native. “I’ve ran the races and I’ve volunteered for them. I know what it’s like to get to that water point and think about giving up. Then a volunteer tells me “good job,’ and “keep it up.” It makes me want to keep going.”
At the end of the race, after the awards ceremony and the racers go home to showers and a feeling of accomplishment, the volunteers begin to break down the race course. Almost no one, save themselves, will see them do this, and within an hour you might not even know a 10-mile race had been held on Fort Bliss.
But the volunteers know. And they’ll be back for the next one, and the one after that, because without them, the race would never go on.
||EL PASO, TX, US
This work, A Little Help From My Friends: Volunteering at the Army 10-Miler in the Heat, by SGT James Avery, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.