FORT SILL, Oklahoma (Sept. 12, 2019) -- Just over 400 runners loped through the shady lanes of Fort Sill at the Marine Corps Artillery Detachment's 26th Annual Devil Dog Run Sept. 7.

Whether they got there at the crack of dawn for the half-marathon or slept in another hour for one of the less strenuous runs, they enjoyed clear skies, temperatures in the 70s, and music by the 77th Army Band to pep them up.

This is the largest run on Fort Sill, according to Marine Corps Maj. Chris Tyson, who organized the event with help from a lot of personnel.

Runners had their choice of a 13.1-mile half-marathon on the East Range or a 10K, a 5K, or a Family Fun Run starting at New Post Chapel and looping around post housing and Randolph Road. The Marines welcomed everybody from leadership to parents with children in strollers and even a few dogs.

"Some brought their kids out to the 5K and the 10K. A mom brought her stroller out to the half-marathon, which is ambitious, but she's ready to do it, so more power to her. We're happy to let her stay in that," Tyson said.

"Anyone can attend. You don't need to be military. You don't need to have any affiliation with the Marine Corps at all. We try to encourage as much outside participation as possible. It's a good time. The Marines enjoy it. Seems like the runners have a good time. And we're always looking for feedback from the runners to make it better for them for the next year."

Pairs of Marines were stationed approximately a block apart throughout the route.

"Those are our checkpoints. They're making sure that everyone's staying on the right path. They're blocking off the roads from traffic so the runners don't have any issues. And they're also providing water to the runners. And if anyone has any issues -- twisted ankle, any kind of injuries -- they're also going to be the ones to be first on the scene and get that medical care to them," said the major.

The Devil Dog Run concluded around 11 a.m. with a ceremony to hand out trophies and medals to the top finishers in each race.

"All the proceeds from the run go to the junior enlisted Marine Corps Ball, which is the first ball ever for the students. It's really just to teach them about Marine Corps history, tradition, and let them really have a good time and hopefully cut down on the cost so we can get that to the bare minimum, if anything, out of their pockets, 'cause they're 18-, 19-year-old kids just coming in the Corps. They don't really have a lot of money to spare for something like that," Tyson explained.

Their Marine Corps Ball will be Nov. 6 at the Patriot Club, and the one for the MARDET's permanent personnel will be a few days later. Both are held in conjunction with the Marine Corps birthday Nov. 10. The student ball typically draws a crowd of at least 350, Tyson said.

Fort Sill is where everybody in the Marine Corps comes for all of their field artillery training, whether officer branch or enlisted military occupational specialties.

Ben and Alex Miller of Fletcher showed their pride in country by carrying flags as they ran. Alex bore the U.S. flag and her husband, a civilian pardon and parole officer, waved the "Go Ruck" flag promoting a veteran-owned company that gets veterans out and keeps them active. Go Ruck's secondary aim is to bridge the gap between civilians and veterans. Gloria Domingo, the foreign exchange student from Spain that the Millers are hosting this year, ran with them.

Ben said they took part in the Devil Dog Run at the invitation of Lt. Col. Marcus Franzen. He is the commander of 1st Battalion, 31st Field Artillery.

"We do a lot of stuff for veterans," said Franzen, and cited a couple examples: They help out Team RWB, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to enrich the lives of America's veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. They're also involved with the Blackout Rucking Crew, southwest Oklahoma's first club devoted to ruck marches. After finishing the Devil Dog Run, they planned to have a booth at Open Streets in downtown Lawton Saturday afternoon to raise community awareness about veterans of all types.

"It's enhancing veterans' lives, and stuff like that. It's to get them out, get them in community effort, helping people work together, so that's why we do it," Franzen explained. "It's mainly just to get people out and be active."