CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait — The USO and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, hosted Kuwait’s only Valentine’s Day Chocolate Run 5k on Feb. 15.

The event took runners across Camp Buehring, where participants from the Fort Carson, Colo.-based brigade, along with the 42nd Combat Aviation Brigade, New York National Guard and the 4th Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, chased Oompa Loompas for golden tickets.

The race rewarded them with sweets and calls to their sweethearts as they crossed the finish line at the Oasis MWR stage.

“We wanted to recreate Willie Wonka and The Chocolate Factory,” said Tiffany Banks, the USO director on Camp Buehring.

“So we have Willie Wonka who starts the race, and Oompa Loompas along the route who are going to pop up out of nowhere for the runners to catch,” Banks said.

“Oompa Loompas have golden tickets and will try to pass the golden ticket to the top 10 runners. Those runners will then compete for an awesome prize.”

And nowhere else in Kuwait could you find a golden ticket.

“We only do it out here,” said Bruce Burda, USO Regional vice president for Southwest Asia. “The soldiers are most isolated in this region, so Camp Buehring is the only place that we are putting the race on in conjunction with the same 5k run back in United States.”

The race connected deployed soldiers to their families all around the world. Family members submitted video shoutouts and photos of their deployed soldiers, which the USO projected onto the Oasis MWR stage as runners crossed the finish line.

The first 500 runners received Chocolate Run T-shirts while every participant was rewarded with fountains of chocolate fondue, candy, shortcakes, cookies, hot chocolate and cheesecake.

Burda hoped the chocolate run provided an opportunity for soldiers to take a break from the working day grind and reconnect, if just for a day, with their valentines.

“The USO loves to support the troops with these kind of events; it is a lot of fun for us and we enjoy all the participations and hope we brightened the day a bit for people missing their loved one back home,” Burda said.

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