By Capt. Leanna Litsch
45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team
KABUL, Afghanistan – Oklahoma Army National Guard troopers with 1st Squadron, 180th Cavalry Regiment, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, deployed as part of the Kabul Security Force in support of the NATO-led train, advise and assist Resolute Support Mission, brought a 17-year tradition to Kabul on April 27 by conducting a 5-kilometer (5K) "Run to Remember."
That running tradition stems from the tragic day of April 19, 1995, at 9:02 a.m., when Oklahoma changed forever. It has been 23 years since the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people and wounded hundreds more.
In 2001 and in remembrance of those lives lost, the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon's "Run to Remember" was established, now bringing nearly 25,000 people from all over the world. But, with the 180th currently deployed to Afghanistan as the marathon takes place back home, one trooper decided to bring the race to them.
The 180th's religious affairs noncommissioned officer, Sgt. Michael Bolgrin, who on the civilian side is a community center supervisor for Oklahoma City's Parks and Recreation Department, coordinated with members of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon and the Oklahoma City National Memorial on organizing the 5K run in conjunction with the actual marathon in Oklahoma City.
For troopers such as Sgt. 1st Class Kari Skinner, who runs the marathon each year, the 5K in Kabul presented an opportunity to join her fellow runners back home in a unique way.
"I love running this race each year because it's a time Oklahoma comes together to remember those lost," Skinner said. "Since I'm deployed overseas, running this 5K in Afghanistan together with our coalition partners brought me a sense of pride in bringing some Oklahoma history to Afghanistan."
The turnout comprised of approximately 200 Soldiers and civilians from all over the world, including the United Kingdom, Denmark, Mongolia and more.
"I think for us it's really important to support our coalition partners, both here in Kabul and back at home," said Capt. James Marsden, member of the U.K.'s 1st Battalion Welsh Guards deployed to Afghanistan alongside the 180th. "When the opportunity came up to come run with the 180th and start to support them in a different way, I think all of us in the U.K. thought it was a really important thing."
Those soldiers and civilians from all over the world not only ran with Oklahomans, but also learned about that tragic day, the role of the Oklahoma National Guard members who responded to the bombing, and the meaning of Oklahoma Pride.
Though the 5K run in Kabul represented a somber time, it embodied a sense of togetherness, heart and the epitome of coalition partnerships.
"This kind of event really helps continue to form that bond between not only just 180th Troopers of Oklahoma, but also our coalition partners across the world," Bolgrin said. "They're better able to understand what makes us Oklahomans and also be part of that tradition."