By Sgt. Kelsey L. Miller, 1st BCT, 1st AD Public Affairs:
(El Paso, Texas, Dec. 7, 2017)
Soldiers assigned to 16th Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, participated in an unusual, but cheerful, physical training session here Friday. Instead of the typical ruck march, the battalion put a holiday twist on it by encouraging Soldiers to wear holiday gear and fill their sacks with toys instead of the traditional 35 pounds of gear.
The idea behind the holiday ruck was to collect donated toys for Operation Santa Claus at Bldg. 1123 Baldwin Road here. The toys donated by the Soldiers will be given to families within the Fort Bliss community who may have deployed spouses, or may not be able to provide toys for their children this year.
“This was special because we live in a community that supports the military, and giving back to that community is important,” said Maj. Michael E. Fitzgerald, the battalion’s executive officer. “In this case, it’s even more important because it’s not just your community, it’s your fellow Soldiers.”
Soldiers from the battalion showed up in various forms of holiday attire – from holiday sweaters to ruck sacks covered in Christmas lights. Holiday music from cell phones and small radios filled the air.
Alongside the formation ran “Santa Claus,” Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony L. Hunsaker, the battalion’s senior enlisted leader, as he motivated Soldiers with holiday remarks and his Santa costume.
Hunsaker said he organized the event because he has done similar events in the past and found them a good, fun way to boost morale and show support for the community.
“In some cases there will be kids in our community who get to see everybody else celebrating the holidays and not get that for themselves,” Fitzgerald said. “This allows us to help children get to experience the holiday spirit. Also, some may not get to see their parent this year due to deployment, but they will be getting toys from other Soldiers. That’s important.”