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By Sgt. 1st Class Rebecca Wood, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade Public Affairs
RICHMOND, Ky.--On the crisp, Sunday morning of Oct. 18, more than 100 runners from the Kentucky Army National Guard, multiple Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) units, and the surrounding community gathered at a starting line of a 10-mile closed track set up at Blue Grass Army Depot (BGAD) in Richmond.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they dispersed the annual Army 10-Miler (ATM) competition--traditionally held in Washington, D.C.--to different hosting sites worldwide. Participants registered for the event online and submitted their scores using a phone application once they completed the run.
Maj. Jennifer Watson, the operations officer for the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, felt like this was a safe opportunity for community and unit cohesion.
"I thought a 10-mile race has a long enough distance to separate runners naturally," said Watson, an avid runner. "Staggered start times would also help to facilitate compliance. I asked to partner with BGAD for a closed-course event because they were always so supportive, located just down the road, and had the infrastructure to support it. I knew most of the local universities were going to take part, so I thought it would be a fun opportunity to offer BGAD as a common place to run it together."
Some participating ROTC units regularly competed nationally at the ATM and used the BGAD closed course in the past. These teams included the University of Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky University, and Morehead University.
The University of Kentucky ROTC Military Science instructor, Capt. Travis Fugate, said the UK ROTC Army 10-Mile Team was excited for the opportunity to run in the event.
"The cadets have been training all semester for the run and were fortunate to run in a well-executed event by the KYARNG," said Fugate. "We traditionally travel to D.C. for the ATM race. We appreciate the support from the KYARNG and value our partnership."
Some participants had experienced the ATM event in Washington, D.C., in the past.
1st Lt. Shannon Bush-Smith, the signal staff officer for the 198th Military Police Battalion, ran the ATM after graduating Officer Candidate School a few years ago and compared it with the virtual run event this year.
"In comparison, the one in D.C. was more emotional; we ran through Arlington Cemetery, downtown, and past the Pentagon," said Bush-Smith. "However, this time, I was out here with members of my unit. I could feel the motivation from other officers rucking the course, and I was around many families who value fitness. The experience was unique and well worth it."
Other participants who never ran the traditional Army 10-Miler said they enjoyed the chance to compete.
"I had run long official races when I was younger but never the Army 10-Miler," said Master Sgt. Thomas Godby, the 149th MEB resiliency officer, and full-time security guard supervisor at BGAD. "This event was exciting to me because I ran as part of a group—we hit the pavement together—and I did something unique in the community. Plus, I love competing against my fellow Soldiers, and I'm always trying to push myself to do better. I love this stuff."
Military kids also took part in a one-mile-run competition.
Marie Dewolf-Hettinger, the wife of Maj. Chris Hettinger of the 103rd Chemical Battalion, said her eight-year-old and kindergartener were as excited to run at BGAD as their father was.
"The race happened on [my son] Clayton's eighth birthday, and it thrilled him to get to run at the depot. Both kids thought it was so cool to get to ride in a military convoy to the race starting line," Marie Hettinger said. "I know it meant so much to [my husband] Chris to have me and the kids at the 10-miler finish line to cheer him on. As a mom and a military spouse, it warms my heart to see the spirit my family brings, no matter what place they finish. And it is always a great time when the kids get to see their parents doing something fun within their service to our country."
The 149th MEB commander, Col. Kent Cavallini, personally awarded the top team, the fastest three individual scorers, and the first finisher for the kids' one mile.
Alpha Team won the team event with an average score of 81 minutes and two seconds. Alpha Team runners included Maj. Curtis Persinger and Capt. Stephen Tindall from the 198th MP Bn., Maj. Jennifer Watson, Maj. Joshua Futrell, Capt. Christopher McGhee, Master Sgt. Ryan Patterson, Sgt. Austin Castle and Sgt. Patrick Noell from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 149th MEB.
The individual first-place winner was Maj. Curtis Persinger who ran 10 miles in 61 minutes and 37 seconds. The second-place award went to Sgt. Chad Terry from Detachment 1, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry. His time was 64 minutes and 50 seconds. Third place, with a time of 65 minutes and 30 seconds, went to Spc. Houston Lundy from 103rd Chemical Battalion. The top scorer for the kids' one-mile race was Bryson Persinger.
The 149th MEB and the Kentucky National Guard congratulate all who participated.