WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii - 2010 is another banner year for Soldiers participating in the Great Aloha Run.

Army participation has swelled to 3,000 in the "Sounds of Freedom" formation category, up from 2,045 Soldiers who ran the 8.15-mile foot race, last year.

"The 25th Infantry Division is the largest unit participating," said Jim Perry, Great Aloha Run military liaison and program manager with Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation.

"But the other services have put up some numbers, too," he added.

The Air Force is represented by 65; the Coast Guard, 63; the Navy, 61; and the Marines, 40, said Perry. He explained that many Hawaii Marines are deployed; otherwise, the Marine Corps numbers would be even higher.

The Army\'s 8th Theater Sustainment Command took the lead in coordinating military participation and support for U.S. Pacific Command, providing equipment such as water trailer "buffaloes" and needed supplies like tables and cots.

"The (Army's) Tropic Lightning Band will kick off the formation start at Aloha Tower, and the Marine (Forces Pacific) Band will be playing rousing music as runners enter Aloha Stadium," Perry said. "Military volunteers will be scattered throughout the event."

From Aloha Tower, according to race organizers, the course will wind along historic Honolulu Harbor, on Nimitz and Kamehameha highways, and into Aloha Stadium.

Lots of hoopla and ceremony typify the race, Perry said.

"It's put together with military precision, and they put in a lot to make everything come together. If you've never seen it before, it's a sight to see," Perry said. "It must be one of the largest running formations of this kind. It's quite impressive ... running by, and just listening to them chant and call cadence."

Military have regularly participated in 25 of the GAR's 26 years. Though road marches and running are routine activities for most branches, units participate purely for the esprit and community camaraderie, according to Sgt. 1st Class Previn Parker, Army race coordinator and 8th Theater Sustainment Command G3 force modernization noncommissioned officer.

Deployed units participate in their own versions of the race, too, Parker said. The 25th Combat Aviation Brigade ran Feb. 1 with nearly 1,100 Soldiers at Contingency Operating Base Speicher and Forward Operating Base Warrior in Iraq. The 524th Combat Support Sustainment Battalion will run with 473 Soldiers, Valentine's Day.

"It used to be a bed race in Wahiawa - yes, literally a race running with mattresses," Parker said. "After it was discontinued, the GAR started up and the military still wanted to participate."

According to Carole Kai, race founder, the Sounds of Freedom formations came about through the GAR's close relations with retired Army Maj. Gen. Harry W. Brooks, with the 25th ID, at the time.

When Kai asked the general what all the noise coming from units running in formation on base and in Wahiawa was all about, the general's response was, "That's the sounds of freedom."

The name stuck and race organizers say when people hear the formation cadence during the run, or on local bases, it's a reminder of the freedoms young men and women have sworn to protect.

"The Sounds of Freedom isn't a competition, though," said Perry, regarding timing. However, inter-service participation is competitive, and runners are recognized and rewarded with a finisher's T-shirt.

The GAR, hosted by Carole Kai Charities, raises funds for more than 150 nonprofit organizations in the Hawaii community. The military's Morale, Welfare and Recreation organizations benefit, too, based upon both individual and formation participation by service members.

"It's opened my eyes to community participation," said Parker. "The numbers of volunteers coming together in military and community relations is just great, and it's also opened up doors to other interaction."

"It really puts a face on the military here in Hawaii," Perry said. "I think the service members get a lot out of participating."

(Editor's Note: See additional coverage on the Great Aloha Run in the Feb. 19 issue of the Hawaii Army Weekly, the post newspaper for the Army in Hawaii.)