Journeying further from their island homes, Tropic Lightning Soldiers found themselves in the nation's capitol and closer to the nation's heart.

Members and leadership of 25th Infantry Division attended the 2008 Association of the United States Army (AUSA) annual meeting and exposition at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington D.C. October 6-8.

The AUSA, a private Army lobbying organization, welcomed more than 29,000 attendees from a multitude of countries to participate in many events, conferences and discussions to assist Soldiers in communicating openly, network, and witness the latest innovations in military strategy and technology.

"The event was more about professional development and reaching the Soldier than anything else," said Lt. Col. Eulalio Medina, civil affairs officer, 25th ID.

Taking place October 5th, the event kicked off with the 24th annual Army 10-Miler marathon run on October 5th at 8:00 a.m. with proceeds going to the Army Morale, Welfare and Recreation Program (MWR).

The Army 10-miler, the largest 10-mile run in America and the second largest 10-mile run in the world, saw competitors from military and civilian runners of more than a dozen countries.

Beginning and ending at the Pentagon, runners passed several of the capitols historic landmarks, such as the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Potomac River, and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

"We had a great team," said Capt. Chris A. Brown, division strength manager, 25th ID and coach of the 25th ID Tropic Lightning run team. "We came in pretty strong, so I was very proud of my team and how well they did in the run."

"It was my first run, but the training really paid off," said Rios. "We trained for ten weeks with strenuous runs, light runs, strength training and cardio training to prepare."
The Tropic Lightning run team placed fifth overall in the Army Ten-Miler Active Duty Mixed Division. Holt, the team's first to cross the finish line, completed the course with a time of 1:04:26.

"The difficult part about the run was fighting through the runners to get in front. It's easy to get gridlocked behind other runners," said Rios. "Other than that, I loved it."

Hosting more than 200 corporations and exhibitors, displaying innovations and conveniences that promise to assist the ease at which the Army conducts future operations in theater and abroad.

"There were new humvees, radar systems, you name it," Rios said. "Also displayed was a new kind of lasers built into the handgrips. I really think they will be beneficial for infantrymen when it comes to missions."

Medina credits the initiative of Maj. Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr., commanding general, 25th ID, for the capacity at which the 25th ID was able to attend the event.

"The CGs guidance brought the command group and the run team together to represent the division for the whole conference," said Medina. "Everybody involved got to get a taste of not just the convention, but the Washington area, as well. I think everybody had a great time."

Medina serves as the state of Hawaii's AUSA convention representative, accepting several streamers for the Hawaii AUSA chapters guidon, including the 233rd Army Birthday streamer and the Special Award Ribbon 2008.

"We visited the Armed Forces Retirement Home," Medina said. "It was an honor to meet veterans from our nation's wars and see what they have done for us."

Additionally, Medina, as well as other 25th ID Soldiers and representatives, had the opportunity to participate in guided tours of Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon.

"It was great a great experience and a unique opportunity to unite," said Medina. "We met people we would otherwise not have an opportunity to meet. The camaraderie throughout the convention was profound because Soldiers regardless of rank interacted with each other."

General George W. Casey Jr., Army Chief of Staff, former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, and Kenneth O. Preston, Sergeant Maj. of the Army led the conference discussing a range of topics largely focusing on welfare and support of Soldiers and their families.

"The Sergeant Major of the Army had a discussion with a lot of the junior enlisted Soldiers focusing a lot on the Army, where it's at, where it's going, and how we're going to get there," said Rios.

"I think we were successful in our role in that we all represented who we are as the 25th Infantry Division and what we bring to the table," said Medina. "Everyone participated in capturing knowledge and bringing it back home."

Participating in the run on behalf of the 25th ID were Capt. Chris A. Brown, division strength manager, 25th ID; Maj. Patrick T. Stich, econ working group officer, 25th ID; Pvt. Willie Folks, 25th Infantry Division; Capt. Desiree Strozier, 3 Battalion 25th Aviation Regiment assistant S-2, 25th ID; Spec. Zachary A. Rios, G-3 aviation operations specialist, 25th ID; Capt. Joaquin H. Dequintanaroo, G-1 plans and operations officer, 25th ID, and Capt. Douglas N. Holt, G-3 aviation officer, 25th ID.