KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (June 18, 2012) – Never too far from home to enjoy some friendly competition, military and civilian personnel alike participated in the ‘Never Quit’ 5k held on Forward Operating Base Wright, June 15.
The race, held on FOB Wright, was coordinated to support the annual race held each year in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., to promote healthy living, family values and support for the military.
“One of the reasons I wanted to coordinate this event was not only to motivate myself, but others around me to keep exercising,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Laura Barker, Provincial Reconstruction Team Kunar medical officer, a native of Fargo, N.D., and the FOB Wright race coordinator.
Being on the eastern edge of Afghanistan, Barker wasn’t sure that she’d get a lot of participants on the relatively small base, but participation turned out better than she’d hoped.
“I was very surprised, I figured I’d be lucky to get 50 people to run, but we wound up with over 100 signed up. Unfortunately due to the mission, everyone couldn’t make it, but we did have 78 who crossed the finish line.”
The race wouldn’t have had as many people run without the assistance of a great number of people said Barker.
“First of all I’d like to thank the sponsors, who helped out with the registration costs and made this much more affordable for everyone to participate in,” she said. “And we had a lot of help on the FOB, with the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation personnel helping with the sound, our FLUOR contractors helped with the drinks, and our Force Protection helped with the route and provided medical response if we needed it.
With so many personnel behind the scenes working on the event, it was the runners themselves who took center stage and drew all of the eyes of curious Afghan workers who watched them run around the FOB.
The first to cross the finish line was U.S. Army Sgt. Timothy Stewart, a PRT Kunar security force member and native of Rockport, Texas, who found himself in a personal competition with his platoon sergeant, U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jason Broyles, a native of Austin, Texas.
“I actually wasn’t even planning on running to be honest, but the rest of the guys just talked me into it,” said Stewart. “When I got out there I wasn’t concerned with winning at first, but then I got out there and Broyles and I just compete with everything we do, so I had to try and beat him.”
Now that he’s won this race and earned the title of the fastest on the FOB, Stewart says he’ll be more prepared for the next race and to defend his title.
“I didn’t really prepare for this one, so it shows that just being out here in this environment, with the mountains and the higher altitude already keeps you conditioned,” he said. “But I’ll definitely be training for the next time so that others can’t come out and just beat me.”
If there is a next time, it may have to wait until after the summer heat dies down in Afghanistan, as the temperatures are now well over 100 each day, but it is something that Barker feels she’d be happy to do again.
“Overall I think think that this was a real morale booster and that’s something I’m glad to help setup,” she said. “It was a really fun event, and if people enjoyed it and want another, I’d be happy to coordinate another one in the future, but perhaps in the fall when it’s not so hot.”