LSA Anaconda celebrates 229th Army birthday

By Pfc. Leah R. Burton
Staff writer

LSA Anaconda commemorated the Army's 229th birthday Monday with a celebratory run and a special dinner at all the post dining facilities, complete with cake cutting ceremonies. The day began with a five-kilometer run, which started and ended at the Thunder Dome, building 4032, at 7 a.m. Registration for the run was free, but those who wanted a commemorative patch paid $10.

Registrants were eligible to win trophies for first, second and third place finishers in male, female and coed team categories.

"We were looking for a way to commemorate the Army's birthday. This is just one way for us to celebrate," said Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Elder, 13th Corps Support Command's command sergeant major, about to the run.

As the sun rose and the customary Iraqi heat began to set in, about 1,500 people convened at the starting line, stretching, talking and bobbing their heads to the music that blared out of the speakers set up on the stage.

Brig. Gen. James E. Chambers, 13th COSCOM and LSA Anaconda commander gave a brief address to the runners.

"Hooah! You ready to run?" Chambers asked.

"Hooah!" The crowd replied. After saluting the colors and singing the Army song, the race began with the thunder of running shoes on the concrete.

As a display of teamwork and camaraderie, some units ran in formations with their unit guidons.

"It's important to do the little things out here to bring us together as a team. What little things we can do to support each other we should do," said Sgt. 1st Class Rene Melendez, 84th Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy).

It was not solely an Army event, however. Handfuls of Marines, airmen, sailors and even civilians were sprinkled among the Soldiers.

"The Air Force started out as the Army. If there wasn't an Army, there wouldn't be an Air Force," said Senior Airman Eric Shaw, 332nd Expeditionary Communications Squadron, who ran to support the Army and gauge his own level of fitness.

Some Marines ran the three miles in Interceptor Body Armor.

"If you want to be hard, you got to train hard," said Gunnery Sgt. James Thom, Marine Air Control Squadron-1, who ran with a team of four other Marines, three airmen and one Soldier.

The level of motivation was high among all the services on the tarmac.

"We work for the Army. They're supporting us. The Army's been really great to us since we've been out here," said Petty Officer Gerard Moore, 528th U.S. Navy Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants Supply.

When the time clock showed 17 minutes and 10 seconds, Marine Capt. Michael Johannes, Combat Service Support Group-15, flew across the finish line capturing first place for the male category.

"Two hundred twenty nine years is a long time. It should be celebrated," Johannes said. "There were a lot of fast runners out there. It's nice to finish first. There was a lot of good competition."

Marine Capt. Kara Lecker, 6th Engineer Support Battalion, took first place in the female category, with a time of 19 minutes and 32 seconds.

"We work under an Army battalion, so we came out to support them. The Marines have been working pretty hard, so it's good to be able to get out and do a run," Lecker said. "It's fun to do a race in Iraq. I wasn't expecting to be able to do something like that."

The 84th ECB took first place for the team category with an average time of 19 minutes and 58 seconds.

"Winning first place was the objective from the beginning. It shows that we can be team players," said Sgt. Aziz Williams, 84th ECB.

At the end of the race, Chambers addressed the crowd again.

"It was a great, great run. The hills were just right. It was a good event for Anaconda. It provided a chance for all of us to come together and share the pain. It's a good spring warm-up for the Army 10-miler," Chambers said.

The dining facilities decorated their areas and served a special Army birthday meal.


Spc. Jose Zayas, Brig. Gen. James E. Chambers and Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Al Lowe
Spc. Jose Zayas, Brig. Gen. James E. Chambers and Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Al Lowe of the 13th Corps Support Command cut into a cake celebrating the 229th Army Birthday in the tradition of the oldest and youngest Soldiers sharing the honor.