CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq - The Aloha spirit was on display as the Soldiers of Task Force Wings, joined by other members of TF Marne, participated in the Operation Iraqi Freedom Great Aloha Run (GAR), in two locations in United States Division-North, Feb. 1.

Nearly, 1,100 people, lead by members of the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, TF Wings, mirrored the 25-year-old race at Contingency Operating Base Speicher and Forward Operating Base Warrior, both in USD-North. The Hawaii-based units showed their Aloha spirit conducting a four-mile formation run, known as the "Sounds of Freedom," simultaneously with an 8.15 mile individual race.

The extremely competitive individual races were divided into age groups for males and females, ranging from 18 to 26 through 40 and over. Staff Sgt. Roderick Reeves, 3rd Division Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, won the individual race at COB Speicher with a time of 47:26. This was his first time running the GAR after hearing about it through the Morale, Welfare and Recreation program.

"I felt great [since I] rested the day before," said Staff Sgt. Reeves. "The weather was perfect and my leadership allowed me time to prepare. I've never been to Hawaii, but I look forward to visiting when I do the Ironman for my 40th birthday."

Sgt. 1st Class Silkia Ramos, 724th Transportation Company, 264th Combat Support Sustainment Battalion, won the overall female category with a time of one hour, 10 seconds.

"This is the first time I've ever [done] the Great Aloha Run," said Sgt. 1st Class Ramos. "I felt great until about mile six. From that point on, it was a bit painful, but I finished. I've been battling a sore right hamstring [from an injury in a previous deployment.]"

The troopers of 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, TF Lightning Horse, completed the 8.15-mile run in formation, mirroring the run from the Aloha Towers to Aloha Stadium on the island of Oahu. 112 Soldiers participated in their Sounds of Freedom run, completing the run in one hour, 17 minutes.

The individual race in Kirkuk included 97 additional runners with Staff Sgt. Lawrence Smith from Company B, 1st Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, winning the overall male category with a time of 52 minutes, one second. Sgt. Evangeline Begay, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 2-6th Cav. Regt., TF Wings, won the overall female category in 1:28:17.
Comfortable temperatures and little wind set perfect conditions for competitive running for the Soldiers. Most of the Soldiers and race participants shared a common thread - an enthusiastic love for athletics.

"Enjoy the race and have fun with it," said Sgt. 1st Class Ramos. Having to be away from family and friends during deployment, it is always nice knowing that events like this are put together to motivate Soldiers and boost morale. Especially when the event represents the state in which they are from.

Staff Sgt. Reeves also gave some advice to the upcoming race participants in Hawaii and all his fellow service members.

"Keep running, biking and swimming," advised Staff Sgt. Reeves. "Stay involved in an active lifestyle. It's not that hard [especially] in Hawaii. And events like the GAR are a wonderful way to unite with other people who will encourage, support and assist you in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Run to live, live to run."