Afghanistan St. Pat's Day race connects with home station event
Jalalabad, Afghanistan-From left, Sgt. Maria Tejeda, Sgt. Samantha Lamping, Pfc. Rundell Logan and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ana Castanon have fun opening the box of race materials and other donated items sent by the Colorado Springs Grand Prix of Running staff.

The Colorado Springs 5K St. Patrick's day race being held March 13 is in its 27th year, but for the first time, it will have a sister race held the same day in Afghanistan with Soldiers deployed from Fort Carson heading it up.

Dubbed the Jalalabad Jig, the race will take place the same day as the one in Colorado Springs, and it is all thanks to one man, Staff Sgt. Mac Arthur "Mackie" Ocampo, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.

Ocampo had gone to last year's event in Colorado Springs and came up with the idea during an event-planning meeting in Afghanistan.

"It brought back memories of last year's St. Patty's Day where me and a couple of friends went downtown to watch the parade," said Ocampo. "Then I thought to myself, 'what better way to celebrate it than to (make our run) coincide ... with the one in Colorado Springs''"

Ocampo said he contacted the local organizers of the race in Colorado Springs and found they were more than willing to help set the run up.

"I felt that if we did this, our Families and friends back in Colorado Springs can sort of feel that, though we are far apart, we are still so close," he said.

Race organizers, including Carol O'Donnell, who personally coordinated all the logistics from Colorado, sent the Soldiers a race kit with everything they would need to hold the event in Jalalabad. The kit included banners, bib numbers, mile markers, custom T-shirts and a finish line marker. O'Donnell said it was the least she could do to help make it all happen.

"It has been fun working with Mackie, knowing that we are sending a bit of Colorado Springs to Afghanistan in support of our troops," she said. "Some of their runners, who are in Jalalabad now, ran the St. Patty's 5K in Colorado Springs last year. It's nice to think they are not missing out on the fun they enjoyed at home."

One Soldier from the 4th BCT, 4th Inf. Div, who has some experience with previous events, is Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ana Castanon.

"Unit events always promote esprit de corps and I want to be part of that," said Castanon. "I've attended the St. Patty's Day events in 2008 and 2009 and by running in this event, (it) makes it seem like I'm still continuing a new-found tradition."

Sgt. Christie Krueger, 4th BCT, 4th Inf. Div, has a more personal reason for running.

"St. Patty's Day has always been a huge event for my family," she said. "Running in this event is just like continuing a family celebration. It's also a big deal that people from our unit's hometown are celebrating and supporting this event too."

Sergeants Lee Wang and Samantha Lamping, members of 4th BCT, 4th Inf. Div, had honor on their minds when deciding to race in the event in Jalalabad.

"I feel ... running in this satellite run is just like running with my friends and Family back in Colorado Springs, and makes it seem like we're still back home," said Wang. "I'm also running for those that support us and our mission."

"This run is important to me because I'm running in honor of our fallen comrades," said Lamping. "The idea that I'll be running in an event the same time as our supporters in Colorado Springs makes it even more special."

For another, the run in Afghanistan is also a chance for friends to come together for a common cause.

"I like to run, and events like these give me the chance to get my team together to compete and strengthen our bond," said Staff Sgt. Brian Robinette, 4th BCT, 4th Inf. Div. "It builds camaraderie and morale. This event is even better to be part of because we're being supported by Colorado Springs."

Race organizers locally said they expect more than 1,500 Colorado Springs runners to participate in this year's event. They also said they expect more than 100 Soldiers to be racing in Afghanistan the same day.

"I don't think there is any other way we could have celebrated this holiday," said Ocampo, "than (with) an event that promotes physical fitness ... unity and solidarity with our Family and friends back in Colorado Springs."

Page last updated Fri March 5th, 2010 at 14:55