Sgt. Edward A. Garibay
16th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – Carrying 30 pounds of weight on their back over hurdles and through ditches, service members raced against each other July 17 during a 10-mile combat relay hosted by the 10th Mountain Division (LI) at Kandahar Airfield.
The event featured more than 110 teams of five of which represented 10 countries, including Afghanistan.
“We wanted to put together something that was unique and different,” said Sgt. Maj. Donald Spicer, the combined, joint
communications sergeant major for Regional Command-South, International Security Assistance Force, and 10th Mountain Division. “We didn’t want to do just another 5K (kilometer) run.”
Spicer said the aim was to create an enjoyable contest that also replicated combat. Each team member had to run a two-mile lap in full uniform with a weapon and 30-pound rucksack through harsh terrain, obstacles and desert heat.
“This really represents what we do in reality,” said Spicer, who put together a similar event with 10th Mountain Division while deployed to Iraq in 2008. “If you’re in combat, you’re not really sure what you’re getting into. You might be climbing up stairs, going on roofs, climbing over T-walls (large concrete barriers) or going down into a lake.”
International participation also replicated real-life combat situations and provided a unique opportunity for countries to compete against each other, said Pvt. Kyle M. Hartley, an infantryman with B Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
“I feel special,” said Hartley, whose team finished first place. “Just seeing where our company stands compared to other companies around the world – it’s great. It brings different countries and different branches all together to do one thing. We’re like one huge Family.”
Along with esprit de corps, one of the main things the event brought was some much-needed relaxation to service members in a combat zone, said 1st Lt. David M. Shanahan, executive officer for Division Signal Company, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 10th Mountain Division (LI).
Spicer said one of the biggest challenges deployed service members can face is time, and anything fun that breaks up the usual combat routine helps people to start over and stay fresh.
“If you look around, I think you can see how happy people are,” Shanahan said. “We’ve all been away from our Families forever. This brings everyone together and takes their mind off work. We’re all out here to have fun and to show how tough we are.”
The competition ended with an awards ceremony where plaques were given to the op overall team, which was from the 170th IBCT, and the top all-female team, which was from 10th Mountain Division. Awards also were given to the top four runners-up, including a Netherlands team, two British teams and a multinational team.
“Everyone here brought together a team,” Spicer said. “The ultimate goal – and my hope – is that it created camaraderie and brought them closer to their organization. It’s something that’s a memory for life.”