CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait –
The Indianapolis-based 310th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) hosted more than 400 military and civilian personnel deployed here, who ran in the May 16th shadow run of their hometown's annual 13.1-mile OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon.
"The 310th ESC is happy to host the Indy Mini here," said Brig. Gen. Justin M. Swanson, the commanding general of the 310th ESC and the deputy commanding general of the 1st Theater Sustainment Command. "We're extremely happy to host it."
Swanson, whose Soldiers staff the 1st TSC's operational command post here, said the 310th ESC embraces the race, which is part of the 500 Festival and the ramp-up to the Indianapolis 500 motor race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The Indy Mini course runs through Indianapolis and includes a lap around the speedway track and its famous yard of bricks. This year, the Indy Mini is run as a virtual event, because of COVID-19 protocols.
"My call sign is Brickyard Six," the general said. "We're happy to do this for the Soldiers--physical, mental and spiritual fitness is an integral part of our resiliency training."
Bob Bryant, the president and CEO of the 500 Festival, the sponsor of the Indianapolis Mini Marathon, said for the last decade, the festival has worked with Indiana-based military units to have their remote version of the race.
Bryant said the festival was more than happy to send medals and T-shirts to the Camp Arifjan organizers.
"We're excited to provide an opportunity to the people of the 310th ESC and the Army Reserve to experience the Indy Mini Marathon while they're deployed to a difficult situation away from home," he said.
Bryant said when the race is held in Indianapolis, there is a tradition of celebrating service, such as when local firefighters run the race in their full kit.
"It is rewarding to see people in service use our event to challenge themselves," he said.
Army Reserve 1st Lt. Lee Weeks, one of the top finishers, said he never ran the race back in Indianapolis and was motivated by the 310th ESC's Chief of Staff Col. Karen Monday-Gresham.
"Colonel Monday told me to get out there and I'm happy she did--that's why I'm here," said Weeks, the officer in charge of the plans and operations section of the 1st TSC-OCP's personnel shop, or G-1. "After I got past mile 6, I felt really good. I think I got a second wind, sort of, I was with a group of people, but I felt I could go a little bit ahead and pace myself faster."
Army Reserve Sgt. 1st Class Jacob R. Brown, who is a budget analyst at the 1st TSC-OCP's financial operations section, or G-8, said he started running in the Indy Mini in 2018.
"The live event in Indianapolis is special because the entire city gets involved to help kick off the month of May," said Brown, who was the noncommissioned officer in charge of planning and organizing the Indy Mini here. "Whether it is volunteering at water stations along the course, the musicians entertaining the runners along the route, or the after-party at Military Park," he said.
"Running a lap around the famed oval of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is also a moment you will never forget after the first time you do it," the Indianapolis resident said.
"Planning and organizing the remote event here in Kuwait to coordinate with the actual event in Indianapolis was very interesting,” he said.
The planning committee worked with Army Support Group-Kuwait and the camp's Morale, Welfare and Recreation team, who also put in a lot of work into organizing this remote event to be as close to the actual 500 Festival event given the capabilities available.
Army Reserve Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Barclay said although he is from the Indianapolis area, he could never get a slot to run the race back home.
"It's kind of hard to get into the race, if you don't plan way ahead," said Barclay, who works in the 1st TSC-OCP's sustainment support operations sections, or SPO.
Having the race at the camp was a treat because the starting line was a short walk from his barracks, he said. "I had to go just one mile to do a race I've wanted to do my whole life."
The sergeant first class said the desert sun took its toll.
"It wasn't too bad when we started, once we made the first turn, and that sun hit--everything started sweating," he said. "I've been training at night, every night, which was a mistake because the sun changed the dynamic."
310th ESC Command Sgt. Maj. Keith A. Gwin, the senior enlisted advisor to Swanson, said while some people enjoy running around the speedway, he always found it disheartening to look up to the track's big screens to see runners finishing a race he was still in the middle of running.
Gwin said he was proud that the shadow run included its own Gold Mile tribute with the names of warriors killed in the service to America on placards on the route.
"The Gold Mile is a really great opportunity for us to recognize fallen servicemen and women and Gold Star families," the command sergeant major said. "It's especially meaningful to us at the 310th because our reserve center is named after Spc. Luke Frist, who was a member of the 209th Quartermaster Company. Frist died as a result of wounds he received in Iraq in 2004."
Weeks said he appreciated the Gold Mile tribute.
"It was important and inspirational to run by the Gold Mile," the Clarksville, Tennessee, native said. "It makes you remember the sacrifices your brothers and sisters have made, around you and they have continued to make serving our Nation."
Army Reserve Capt. Sherelle J. Hulbert, who was the 310th ESC's officer in charge of the shadow race, said she was thrilled so many personnel from other units and services signed up for Indy Mini here.
"Not only does it bring about esprit de corps among the different military entities here, but it also brings about a connection with Indianapolis from Kuwait," Hulbert said. "This gives Soldiers the opportunity to remain connected with the community while also allowing Indy, a military-friendly city, to show their support for local Soldiers serving the nation through military service."
Brown said having the Indy Mini here was fun for everyone involved.
"The most rewarding part will be seeing everything come together and having a successful large event 'live race,' which will be one of the first events like this since COVID-19 has put restrictions on events here at Camp AJ."