BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The human resources team, 1st Infantry Division, understands their nine-month deployment to Iraq in support of Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command -- Operation Inherent Resolve is a marathon, not a sprint.

At the start of the New Year the team challenged themselves to collectively run "2,017 Miles in 2017."

The team is taking on this challenge to stay physically fit and increase their espirit de corps.

When U.S. Army Lt. Col. Trina Rice, human resources officer in charge, CJFLCC-OIR, was presented the idea by her team she was enthusiastic to start.

She kept a poster her team presented to her about the challenge. It was a simple poster that read, "2,017 Miles in 2017" in big bold letters that covered the entire page.

"I thought it was a great idea," Rice, a New York City native, said. "You always want your Soldiers to have their own ideas and have those ideas supported by their leadership."

They track their mileage individually using a large chart written on a dry-erase board in their waiting room. The totals are calculated in large numbers so each person can see everyone's progress. And at the bottom of the chart is their team mileage totaled together.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Qunisha Starks, the essential personnel services (EPS) noncommissioned officer in-charge, CJFLCC-OIR, said the chart serves to motivate the team in order to reach new levels of fitness.

"We are doing this to push ourselves," Starks, an Albany, Georgia native said. "Some of us do not like running, so this is a tool to help us run more."

Starks is, and she said as Soldiers they have to maintain physical fitness not only for the Army Physical Fitness Test but also for their health in the long-term.

Rice said everyone will leave the Army at some point in their future, so maintaining a healthy lifestyle will ensure they are a healthy Soldier-for-life.

Within their section they had to say farewell to a team member, Maj. Lawrence Torres, former-deputy human resources officer, CJFLCC-OIR, in late February. And even though he is not retiring he is relocating and must continue in his physical fitness elsewhere as he continues to serve.

U.S. Army Capt. Brenda Eaton, deputy human resources officer, CJFLCC-OIR, from Orlando, Florida, replaced Torres and immediately picked up the slack by joining the challenge.

"I loved the idea," Eaton said. "I am a runner by trade. When I joined the Army I had to run a lot more. I was known as 'Beast Mode' because I liked to run a lot and compete against the other Soldiers."

Eaton said the military is a highly stressful and highly demanding environment. She said it is important to stay balanced, not only physically but mentally and spiritually.

Eaton ran a full marathon at Walt Disney World and said she likes to run at Konza Prairie in Manhattan, Kansas, when she is back at Fort Riley. Her background in running continues to motivate her to hit high totals on the run chart by running up to 10 miles at time.

When Eaton runs she said she likes to do it on her own. Her teammate U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Nicholas Rimmer, human resources strength officer, CJFLCC-OIR, shares the same mentality.

"I like to set my own pace," Rimmer said. "I like sprinting, but I am not a distance runner. I like to see if I have my natural fast-speed."

Rimmer, a native of Grenada, Mississippi, said before the challenge he ran two-miles in 15:45 but now runs it at 14:20.

Rice has also seen an improvement in her running as well.

"My goal is to max my run as much as I can," Rice said. "Since I have been at Fort Riley I have done better on my runs. Mid to high 16:00's from 17:00's."

Rice said this challenge has provided an opportunity to enhance the team's chemistry and competitive nature.

"It is a way to remember this tough time here on our deployment," Rice said. "This is one of those things that pulls us all together."

As of March 4, the team's total is at 750.36 miles.