CBS 11 News anchor Keith Garvin and photojournalist Edgar Solis were recently embedded with soldiers in Afghanistan to see the U.S. war effort firsthand. Click here to read more of their stories.
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (CBSDFW.COM) - Under the sound of gunfire, beneath the roar of fighter jets on a combat run, you can hear a different sound in Afghanistan, if you listen closely. In the midst of a military mission, one soldier is working on a personal objective.
Master Sergeant Brian Eckley from Fort Worth is training for an Ironman Triathlon. But he is not along the Trinity Trail or White Rock Lake. The 38-year-old, 17-year Army veteran is at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.
“It’s hard to get the miles in outside, with the traffic,” Eckley said. “It is a war zone and all.”
Over the past 10 years, Eckley has been deployed five times. Training is his only means of release. “It definitely clears my mind a little bit,” he said. “Picture myself back in Colorado Springs, riding in the mountains. But this is about as close as I can get.”
Eckley arrived in Bagram on July 4. He said that he was not an athlete when he graduated from Brewer High School in 1992. He took up triathlons shortly after enlisting in the Army.
In addition to the war zone atmosphere, the cold snow and ice of the Afghan winter make it hard to train outdoors. Eckley was able to ship over a stationary bike from home, to help him stay in shape.
“This will make 17 hours this week,” he said of his exercise. “It’s really early in the season. Well, training anyway.”
In the Army, Eckley provides communication teams who hunt for and dispose of roadside bombs. But he also has another team to communicate with – his family. Eckley has a wife and two kids back in the United States. “You just adapt to what your environment is, and do what you have to do to get through it,” Eckley said. “And keeping in contact with family is probably the cornerstone in it.”
Eckley has set three goals for the end of his deployment: reuniting with family, competing in Arizona’s Ironman this November, and leaving Afghanistan. “I would like to see us out. I’ve had about enough of this place,” he said.
But before riding out of Afghanistan for the last time, Eckley will continue his training. The routine will actually intensify after he leaves in the summer. Eckley wants to complete the Ironman in less than 11 hours.
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