FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - As a way to show support for Soldiers deployed from Fort Wainwright, Army Family Team Building is sponsoring "Tour De Desert", a program that allows community members to work towards being physically fit, reduce stress and socialize as well.

The Tour De Desert is a cycling challenge that began May 1 and will end April 30, 2012. It is very similar to "Walk to Iraq and Back," the challenge from the previous deployment.

Riders can do their mileage outdoors on a road or mountain bike, or indoors on a stationary bike. They can ride as individuals or as part of a team. The goal is to bike the distance from Fort Wainwright to Kabul, Afghanistan, and then to Baghdad, Iraq, with a total one-way distance of 5,503 miles. The round trip is a total of 11,006 miles.

For those who don't want to ride, mileage can be accumulated in other ways. Participants earn one mile for every 30 minutes of sustained physical activity other than cycling. That can be aerobics, kick boxing, strength exercise, elliptical training, weight lifting, walking, running or any other organized sports activity.

To add even more mile points to the journey, attend a class or event at ACS (25 miles), utilize a Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation facility (10 mileage points) or attend a Soldier-related function (Family Resource Group meetings or socials) for five mileage rewards.

Registration is required to get credit for participating and can be done at ACS. Each participant will receive a log book at the time of registration.

Jessica, a Family Advocacy educator and the spouse of 1st Lt. Conor McKeown, 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, is particpating in the program and accumulating her miles through elliptical and aerobic workouts.

"I really like the whole premise behind Tour De Desert, of let's travel the distance to where our loved ones are and come back," she said. "I think of it in a symbolic way as well. As in, I'm making this trip, this effort with him. This is just another way I can do that."

Natalie Rhodes, the functional administrator at FMWR, has accumulated over 500 miles since May 1.

"I heard about the program through MWR channels and I thought 'wow, that sounds a lot like the Walk to Iraq and Back', which was a lot of fun," she said. "I am just participating to show my support for those troops who have deployed".

"I think that it is great because it is a self-directed program and it is how much you can put into it. I think it is a wonderful motivator for folks in our community just to get out there and ride, be active, stay healthy over the next year and maybe even start something that will last the rest of their lives."

"I feel a tremendous indebtedness to the Soldiers and family members and for me, any way that I can give back is a positive thing. I appreciate what you do, I understand the sacrifices that you make and I'm here for you," Rhodes said. "People see you ride your bike, if you can talk to other people about it, get them excited about it."

"I would definitely encourage other people to get involved with the program" McKeown said. "I think it another way to allow us to come together as a community."

For more information on the program contact Charles Lyons at 353-2382.