Running to stay fit in Iraq
May 28, 2009
CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq - A group of the Fort Hood, Texas based Soldiers participated in the 5.53-mile run at Victory Base Complex.
The Soldiers are members of the 553rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion that is nearing the end of its 15-month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The 5.53 mile course took participants through the streets of VBC, passing amazing sites such as the Al-Faw Palace, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno's residence, and several of the area's man-made lakes. While the 553rd CSSB's "Leopard Run" was created for a successful mission accomplishment, it also served as the pinnacle event for a group of dedicated runners in the battalion.
Capt. Christopher Etheridge, a native of Norman, Okla. and a member of the 553rd CSSB's running group, enjoys participating in the runs for various reasons.
"I viewed them as a personal challenge," he said. "For example, I ran a 10-mile race recently and was surprised that I could finish it without stopping. Additionally, I looked for the races that supported a worthy cause such as the "Who's Your Hero Run" that enlightened the public on the devastating disease, Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma."
The 553rd CSSB's running group's motto of "Running for our Lives in Iraq" is a statement that was derived from several factors. One is the unpredictable Iraqi weather.
Sgt. 1st Class Joel Hernandez, a native of Aurora, Ill., recalls one 10K race - "That day was so dusty and windy that you could barely see the person in front of you. By the time I crossed the finish line I was completely covered in dust and my normally dark hair was white."
When Hernandez was asked why he would run in those conditions he stated, "It was cool. How many people can say they ran a 10K in a full-blown dust storm'"
"Running for our Lives in Iraq" help soothes frustrations and anxieties. For many of the 553rd CSSB runners, the simple act of running serves as a healthy substitute to maintaining fitness.
The 553rd runners understand the benefits of running and will continue to lace up their running shoes and run the streets of VBC until they leave Iraq.