Story by Spc. Derek Kuhn, 40th Public Affairs Detachment
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan Ã¢â‚¬â€œ It’s 6 a.m. and scores of Paratroopers can be seen pushing themselves to their limits on Disney Drive. The rising temperatures, elevation and mental and physical exhaustion are barriers each Paratrooper must endure and overcome as they run Bagram Air Field’s main thoroughfare.
In a show of 82nd Airborne Division’s pride and generosity, many Paratroopers are running laps around BAF’s perimeter to raise money for charity.
Known as the Combined Joint Task Force-82 Perimeter Run Challenge, the event recognizes the first 10 individual runners or teams of four to complete 82 laps around the perimeter with a donation to a charity of choice.
The donation originally awarded $82 for charity to the winners. However, other donations have bolstered the event’s total from $820 to $2278.
Each lap measures 7.9 miles and has many hills, which increases the difficulty of each lap in the already thin air.
According to the event’s mastermind, Army Maj. Anthony Clemente, future operations officer for CJTF-82, prior to the 82nd Airborne Division’s arrival CJTF-101 had a completed laps tracker, but he wanted to better organize it and promote fitness throughout CJTF-82.
What better way to motivate someone than to let them know they have the opportunity to help others?
“If you can’t motivate yourself to do it for personal fitness,” said Clemente, an Oswego, N.Y., native, “then perhaps doing it for a good cause will [motivate you].”
Clemente said the idea for adding the charitable donations was inspired by his father. A retired Army major who served for 30 years, Clemente’s father lost his fight against lymphoma and liver cancer.
The reception to the added incentive has been positive. More than 100 runners have signed up to date, with more joining daily.
Army Sgt. Maj. Shannon Cromartie, CJTF-82 communications sergeant major, is a major proponent for the event and enjoys the challenge of it.
“I like running,” said Cromartie, a Houston native. “Charity is always a good thing and helps provide extra motivation.”
Such motivation has spread and many in the communications section have joined the challenge as a group.
“I’ve always been a runner, but I haven’t done a lot of running in the last three or four years,” said Army Maj. Paul Sparks, CJTF-82 communications network operations officer. “We started the challenge as a group and it has been great for camaraderie.”
“You always try to give something back,” said Sparks, a Crete, Ill., native. “[It is great to] do good things for good people.”
Though the charitable aspect may inspire more Soldiers to run the perimeter, the benefits aren’t mutually exclusive.
Army Maj. Michael Binetti, future operations officer for CJTF-82 and fellow participant, described Clemente as “down to his fighting weight,” referring to Clemente’s fitness success since beginning the challenge.
Clemente doesn’t focus on individual accomplishments. Rather, he compiles the stats of all the runners with a spreadsheet. According to that spreadsheet, 5,806 miles have been logged and 882,000 calories burned. To put the number of calories burned in perspective, they equal about 1,634 McDonald’s Big Mac sandwiches, 4,410 Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnuts, or 245 pounds.
Binetti, not one to lose himself in the details, summarizes the spirit of the challenge.
“Get out and run,” said the Ridgefield Park, N.J., native. “Run for the cause; run for your fitness.”