FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARHORSE, Iraq – Two soldiers dismounted from a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter to be greeted by a third soldier at the end of the helipad.
The three soldiers toured several sections of the training base before the blatant absence of activity prompted one of the soldiers to speak up.
“This place is a ghost town,” said Lt. Col. Robert Forte, the deputy commanding officer of 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, United States Division-North. “I think that’s exactly the way it should be on Christmas.”
Forte, accompanied by Command Sgt. Maj. William Hain, 2nd AAB command sergeant major, visited soldiers at the Kirkush Military Training Base and at Contingency Operating Location Cobra Dec. 25.
Forte said the leaders visited the soldiers to increase morale at the more remote operating bases where amenities are sparse, and to ensure soldiers they were not forgotten during the holiday season.
“We just wanted to take this opportunity to show you that you are loved,” he said.
During the whirlwind tour, Forte and Hain conversed with soldiers of 2nd AAB, “Warriors,” while serving a Christmas meal.
Forte and Hain also dined with soldiers from 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd AAB, 25th Inf. Div., and discussed topics ranging from work to holiday experiences.
Soldiers at Forward Operating Base Warhorse in the Diyala province, Iraq, also celebrated Christmas with various festivities throughout the day and late into the night.
Twenty-six service members mounted stationary bicycles in the Cash Gym from noon until about 8:00 p.m. for the COB Warhorse “Spin-A-Thon.”
Aside from achieving an excellent cardiovascular workout, participants rode to raise funds and awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project.
The Wounded Warrior Project, a Veterans Affairs-accredited organization listed with the Combined Federal Campaign, is a charity designed to counsel and help wounded service members return to the workforce after their military service, said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Terry Prime, Weather Team noncommissioned officer in charge, attached to 2nd AAB, 25th Inf. Div.
“I chose Christmas as a day to hold this event because it’s obviously the biggest day of giving and can’t think of a more worthy cause to give to our brothers and sisters-in-arms who have been injured defending our country,” said Prime, who is assigned to 22nd Expeditionary Weather Squadron.
Beginning at noon, Christmas Day, volunteers divided eight hours into 30-minute blocks, peddling and switching out partners in groups of two. The participants solicited donations from patrons visiting the gym at
While volunteer riders peddled toward their goal, soldiers lined up at the FOB Warhorse dining facility for a Christmas feast.
Chief Warrant Officer Ruby Freeman, food service technician of 2nd AAB, 25th Inf. Div., said the FOB Warhorse Dining Facility served approximately 1,500 people during the Christmas rush.
“We served roast turkey, fried shrimp, glazed ham and prime rib for the main dishes,” she said. “There were four different kinds of pudding, five different kinds of cobbler and cakes galore for dessert.”
Freeman said the food service teams had their work cut out with so much being offered to such a large crowd.
As the riders finished the last leg of their stationary journey at Cash Gym, soldiers gathered at the Faulkenberg Theater for the FOB Warhorse Christmas Party.
Speakers blared popular songs while soldiers snacked on holiday treats and enjoyed the company of their “families” away from home.
Sgt. 1st Class Charlie Fragozo, an Arleta, Calif.-native, and the assistant operations sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 2nd AAB, 25th Inf. Div., said his main motivation for coordinating this party was to get soldiers out of their rooms and come together during the holidays.
“I felt that putting on this event would get people out of their rooms and into the Christmas spirit,” he said. “I wanted to bring a piece of Christmas to Iraq.”
Fragozo said he received a lot of support in preparing for the event and in establishing the festive atmosphere.
The Brigade Equal Opportunity office helped Fragozo acquire a Christmas tree, while the 1st Bn., 21st Inf. Regt. supply and logistics office provided the refreshments.
The group of attendees gradually thinned out as the clock approached 1 a.m. Christmas festivities drew to a close and soldiers wished each other a final “Merry Christmas” before parting ways.
Though thousands of miles separated many soldiers from their loved ones, a sense of family could be felt throughout the Warrior brigade this Christmas.