Combined Team Uruzgan soldiers at Gahn Chapel hold their candles during the Christmas Eve candle light service held at Multi National Base Tarin Kot, Afghanistan, Dec. 25, 2012. (U.S. Army courtesy photo)
TARIN KOT, Afghanistan — More than 2,500 International Security Force Members from Australia, Singapore, Slovakia and the United States of America united under Combined Team Uruzgan to celebrate Christmas at Multi National Base Tarin Kot, Afghanistan, Dec. 24-26.
The three days - Christmas Eve, Christmas day, and Australian Boxing Day - combined traditions from around the world to give everyone a little taste of home this holiday season.
On Christmas Eve, competitors raised more than $2,000 for the Smith Family Charity during the Candy Cane 5 km Fun Run. More than 100 soldiers and civilians dressed in physical fitness uniforms and holiday costumes participated in the race.
“It was good to get the exercise and finish the race, I just wish I hadn’t been beaten by a snowman,” said Capt. Bromolyn Thomas, Logistics Officer of 7th Battalion Royal Austrian Regiment Task Group.
Shortly after the fun run, Christmas hymns could be heard from the MNBTK chapel.
“I miss going to church with my wife kids, but I’ve also learned to cherish my family here,” said Capt. Matthew Weathers, chaplain, CTU, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.
On Christmas Day, while hundreds of care packages and secret Santa gifts were opened across MNBTK; Australian Col. Simon Stuart, Commander of CTU visited Forward Operating Bases Hadrian and Mirwais handed out gifts and wished soldiers Merry Christmas.
“It gave me an opportunity to tell the soldiers out here that while they aren’t celebrating the holidays with their families, they are with their military family today,” Stuart said.
Australian Lt. Col. Malcolm Wells, Commanding Officer of the 7th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment Task Group said Christmas in Uruzgan was a very special day.
“It was a chance for all of us to reflect on the significant service that we are undertaking here away from our family, friends and loved ones,” Wells said.
The officers, warrant officers and senior non-commissioned officers observed the Christmas military tradition by serving food to the soldiers in the dining hall. The buffet included 28 Australian, European, and American delicacies including turkey, pork, prawn, lobster, salmon and mince pies.
“The mince pie is what really made me feel like I was at home for Christmas,” said 1st Lt. Patrick Gurski, Security Forces Advisory Team, Texas Army National Guard, 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
The three days of festivities ended with an Australian tradition of watching and playing cricket on “Boxing Day.”
“I had been watching cricket since I arrived. But today is the first time I have ever played the game and I had a lot of fun,” said Maj. Billy Meredith, CTU Operations Officer, 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID.
During the 3-days of festivities, everyone was thankful for the small reminders of home while remaining focused on the mission.
“We’ve all been overwhelmed by the support, thoughts and well-wishes from family and friends back home,” Stuart said.