MILLINGTON, Tenn. (NNS) -- Naval Support Activity (NSA) Mid-South hosted a 10 nautical mile run in Millington, Tenn., June 6.
The NSA Mid-South community pulled together after more than a month of flood recovery efforts to celebrate what they hope will be the start of an annual Navywide event. The community was hit by a storm May 1 that caused severe flooding, significant structural damage to NSA Mid-South facilities and crippling the base's infrastructure.
"The flood was just a hiccup in the road," said Capt. Doug McGowen, NSA Mid-South commanding officer. "We had a lot of planning and logistics already set up. We wanted to get through flood recovery to get back to normalcy."
"Other branches of the service have races, the Marine Corps Marathon, the Air Force Marathon, the Army Ten Miler," said Lt. Cmdr. Isabelle Detter, NSA Mid-South Public Works officer, who had the idea for the race. "There isn't really a specific Navy race, and we began planning this several months ago in an effort to start our own official Navy race."
Detter said the race's measurement the nautical mile, was selected to reaffirm participants, largely Sailors and civilians associated with the U.S. Navy, ties with the sea service, something she said is more than just clever word play.
"A nautical mile is actually about one and a quarter miles," she said. "While everyone will understand the term 'nautical,' most individuals really don't know the distance, and as Sailors we should."
Detter added that the date of the race was significant as well, and stressed the importance of ensuring the date is imprinted on Sailor's minds. Detter selected June 6 because of its importance in Navy history.
"As you know, June 5 is the Battle of Midway, a famous battle for the United States Navy and June 6 was D-day," said McGowen. "[The Navy] had a significant part to play in those historical days, so we are doing this as a commemoration to those two major events," he said.
Despite the entire month of May centered on flood recovery, Detter proceeded with plans for the inaugural event, seeing the race as an opportunity to further connect with the community after the flood. Detter said nearly 450 individuals ran the 11.5 mile course.
"I think oddly enough the flood increased people's desire to run," Detter said. "It was a spirit of perseverance that seemed to make it something we 'had' to do, and after such a devastating event in the community, being able to pull everyone together for an event designed to boost morale and focus on something positive if only for a couple of hours seemed the right thing to do."
Detter added that not only was the event successful in boosting morale and employing team-building concepts throughout NSA Mid-South, but proceeds from the race were donated to charity.
"All proceeds go to the Fisher House this year and all years in the future," said Detter. "We received so much assistance during and after the flood, and it feels good to us as a community to donate what we can to an organization which truly needs it."
The Fisher House is a home-away-from-home for families of patients receiving care at major military and Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers, similar to the service provided by the Ronald McDonald House at civilian hospitals.
Detter added that this is the first race of which she is aware that is measured in nautical miles, a concept she hopes will continue to spread throughout the military and gain the reputation of other military athletic contests.
"This year we reached out to another command a half-a-world away to participate, and even though they're in an area which isn't conducive to fun, they all had a good time."
Nineteen U.S. and Italian service members participated in the race, running in conjunction with personnel at NSA Mid-South but completing their course on Forward Operating Base Farah in Afghanistan.
Chief Hospital Corpsman Ben Hodges coordinated deployed service members' participation with Detter, and despite the numerous obstacles to overcome, he said the race represented the solidarity of the sea services and the willingness to keep flood victims at the forefront.
"Like people around the world, we were extremely concerned for the Sailors and their families during the flooding," said Hodges. "When we found out about the 10 Nautical Miler we jumped at the opportunity to take part in the event."
As with every event, there are risks to asses and overcome, but Afghanistan posed new threats and risks not common stateside. With temperatures reaching nearly 125 degrees some days and the constant threat of possible adverse contact, Hodges said numerous precautions were taken to ensure the safety of all participants.
"All steps were taken to mediate the risks," he said. "We made sure security personnel were in key locations to ensure the safety of all participants and our checkpoints had water and medical personnel on hand."
Hodges said that preparing for the run presented training challenges for some participants, and that he hosted several events designed to acclimate and prepare runners.
But one of the most significant aspects of the run, according to Hodges, was the benefit to a local orphanage, something he said is important to deployed service members.
"While on deployment out here we have not only completed our standard mission but we also strive to provide positive change on a personal level for those affected by combat," said Hodges.
Proceeds from the Afghanistan leg of the race were donated a local orphanage. Hodges also said that he and other chief petty officers in Farah used the race as an opportunity to motivate and remind junior Sailors of Navy heritage and traditions.
"Running the Ten Nautical Miler vice a standard distance race was great not only to tighten our ties to our sea going brothers and sisters, but also to share our service and pride with our accompanying U.S. and Italian armies," he said. "We are thankful for the chance to participate in this amazing event and many look forward to being back there next year to run it with our NSA Mid-South shipmates."
For more news from Commander, Navy Region Midwest, visit www.navy.mil/local/midwest/.