Deployed Troops Plan Holiday Cheer in Iraq and Afghanistan
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 24, 2003 They may be thousands of miles away from home, but U.S. troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan are planning full holiday schedules to add a bit of cheer to their ongoing 24-7 mission requirements.
In addition to Christmas religious services, units throughout the theater have planned a wide range of special events to make the season special for service members away from home. "It's important for the troops because it gives them a little taste of home, even though they aren't there," said Capt. Jefferson Wolfe of the 4th Infantry Division's public affairs staff.
At the 4th Infantry Division headquarters in Tikrit, the holiday schedule calls for performances of "A Tuba Christmas" by the division band, as well as two holiday shows Dec. 24 and 25.
Unit spokesmen say other events include a Dec. 24 talent show for soldiers to showcase their performing abilities, caroling, a disk jockey performing in the sports bar, a games tournament and a Christmas feast with all the trimmings.
The 82nd Airborne Division plans a big Christmas feast with the "All American Christmas" theme. Officials say the unit anticipates visits from a wide range of VIPs, including Army Gen. John Abizaid, head of U.S. Central Command; Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker; and Acting Secretary of the Army Les Brownlee.
Country singer Craig Morgan and several NASCAR celebrities are also expected to pay a call on the troops.
At the 3rd Corps Support Command in Balad, officials say the unit will sponsor a 5-kilometer run with the 12th Aviation Regiment on Christmas Eve, and encouraging runners to wear holiday costumes.
The command will sponsor a golf game throughout the day, with holes around the post sponsored by various units.
In Afghanistan, Combined Joint Task Force 180 plans lots of Christmas Eve activities at Kandahar Air Field: helicopter rides and static displays, the arrival of three wise men via camel, worship services, music, dancing, caroling, and talent competitions.
Officials say they also plan to feature ornament, Santa Claus, and humvee decorating contests, ending the evening with a brigade chorale singing of "Silent Night." On Christmas Day, the task force plans worship services and a special holiday dinner.
Bagram's Christmas events will include a Christmas float parade, church services and a Christmas dinner. The coalition Afghan National Army trainers at Camp Phoenix also plan a wide range of holiday events.
But throughout the theater, the deployed service members say they recognize that despite the temporary diversion from their day-to-day duties, their missions continue throughout the holidays.
As one soldier from the 82nd Airborne Division put it, "It may be Christmas, but the mission goes on."