Jul 20 2014
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Troops Rocked Chicago Overseas

Long after participants took their medal home from the 2011 XSport Fitness Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago last August, enjoyed a cool shower and hearty meal, celebrated their accomplishment and long training dedication with family and friends, then perhaps took a couple of weeks off to recuperate before hitting the pavement once again – on the other side of the world, a group of dedicated soldiers were still training in anticipation to run their own version of Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago, in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

About 150 anxious runners lined up at the Boardwalk on Kandahar Airfield Oct. 29, stretching and shivering as they awaited the start of Task Force Thunder’s 2011 Rock N’ Roll Chicago half-marathon shadow run.

Before the race, Staff Sgt. Char Fick, the coordinator for the event, called several first sergeants onto the stage, where she passed out 12 foot-long inflatable guitars. Guitars were also given to the communications shop for their support to the event and to Spcs. Jazmin Hamilton and Jared Gunn, who traveled from Forward Operating Bases Wolverine and Tarin Kowt, respectively.

“On your mark, get set, go!” she yelled. Each of the first sergeants rushed to be the first to blow up their guitar, but 1st Sgt. Adam Barber, the first sergeant for Blackwidows (Company C, 4th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment) was the victor.

Each of the first sergeants started the 13.1 mile race around Kandahar Airfield carrying their guitars, but as individuals passed them, those individuals could take the guitar. Whoever finished the race with the guitars got to keep them as mementos of the event.

The first person to finish the race was Jamie Turner, a contractor with Task Force Thunder. Turner had a slight advantage over some of the other runners though.

“I normally run 50 to 70 miles per week in the mornings before work,” he said. “(But this was) an opportunity to run a half marathon and best my personal record.”

Ironically, one of Turner’s running partners was the first female participant to reach the finish line.

“Running has become part of my daily activities,” said Peace Iyamah, another Task Force Thunder contractor. “Being in Kandahar, where there are very limited things to do during our spare time, running has fulfilled that time.”

As the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation coordinator for Task Force Thunder (159th Combat Aviation Brigade), that was one of the main reasons Fick began coordinating the shadow half marathon in the first place.

“MWR events such as fitness competitions and shadow runs help keep our Soldiers fit, reduce stress, and also boost self confidence and morale,” Fick said. “We have a lot of runners in our formation, many who requested that we do either a half marathon or a full marathon during the deployment, so I looked on the run calendar in the States and saw this one.”

Fick worked with the coordinators of the Chicago event to ensure the Kandahar shadow run was a success. In fact, she even received signs and banners from the Chicago event that were used to motivate the runners here.

“I thought that was awesome,” Capt. Brent Habley, the defense prosecutor for the brigade, said of the Soldiers holding up the motivational signs toward the end of the run. “It really helped me get through those last two laps.”

With limited space, Fick had to get creative with the route. Participants ran a loop around the actual airfield, and then turned down a five-mile loop that took them past housing areas, motorpools and supply yards. When they came upon the Task Force Thunder headquarters, many thought they were finished, but they still had one more small loop to run before they got to the finish line, where a post-run breakfast of croissants, pizza, lunchmeats and cheeses, and vegetables awaited them.

That’s also where each of the runners received their medallions, courtesy of the Chicago crew, recognizing their participation in the event.

“I will have to say my love for running (inspired me to participate in this event),” said Iyamah. “The fact that I have never participated in a half marathon before was also my motivation.

Sergeant First Class Stephanie Carl

Task Force Thunder Public Affairs Officer

View Inspiring Photos from Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago – Kandahar, Afghanistan.