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Christmas Spirit Comes to 101st Airborne Division Rakkasans while Deployed in Afghanistan

 

Written by U.S. Army Capt. Erik Alfsen
Chaplain, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team

Fort Campbell KY, 101st Airborne DivisionRakkasan

Khowst Province, Afghanistan – It is Christmas Eve on Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan.

Decorations, colorful lights, Christmas trees, and tables full of home style food fill the room. Live music is playing and someone dressed as Santa Clause is handing out presents.

Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team “Rakkasans,” 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), pose for a photo to show their holiday cheer. (Courtesy photo)

Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team “Rakkasans,” 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), pose for a photo to show their holiday cheer. (Courtesy photo)

This meal isn’t in a dining facility, it is in a motor pool maintenance bay that is usually filled with broken trucks and stripped down generators.

Tonight it is where the Soldiers of 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team “Rakkasans,” 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), known as the “Iron Rakkasans,” celebrate Christmas.

The Rakkasans are three months into a deployment in Khowst Province, near the border of Pakistan. Their mission is to advise and assist Afghan National Security Forces as they take the lead against a determined enemy.

“We work hard and the holidays are a tough time for many Soldiers,” said Capt. Jeffery Seitz, Commander, Company R, 3-187. “Being 7,000 miles from our loved ones can take a toll. That’s why celebrations like this are especially important.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Griffith, Battalion operations senior non-commissioned officer in charge, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team “Rakkasans,” 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), poses with Santa Clause during a celebration at Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan, Dec. 24th, 2012. (Courtesy photo)

Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Griffith, Battalion operations senior non-commissioned officer in charge, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team “Rakkasans,” 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), poses with Santa Clause during a celebration at Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan, Dec. 24th, 2012. (Courtesy photo)

More than 200 Soldiers were in attendance and the mood was festive.

“This is the best decorating I’ve seen in my four combat tours, and the food was awesome,” said Sgt. 1st Class Sean Murk. “It reminded me of what the holidays are like back home.”

Four musicians sang Christmas carols through a portable sound system. The live Santa Clause greeted Soldiers as they stood in the serving line with a traditional feast including turkey, ham, roast beef and all the trimmings.

“A traditional Christmas meal is important because it brings people together and helps them remember what this time is all about,” said Staff Sgt. Nina Jules, a food services manager, assigned to 3-187. “I didn’t want our Soldiers eating alone at the big dining facility, so we decided to bring the Iron family down here.”

Jules explained how sharing a meal together can help someone who is struggling reach out to others around them and remind them that they are not alone.

“Tonight was more than a meal,” said Capt. Erik Alfsen, the Battalion’s Chaplain. “We are a family. If I cannot spend Christmas with my loved ones back home, there isn’t anyone else I’d rather be with than my brothers and sisters in arms.”

As Christmas Eve draws to an end for the Iron Rakkasans, it is just beginning for their families back home. Despite the distance, the spirit of Christmas is alive and well.

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