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Instructors and students at the Staff NCO Academy gather in the parking lot before the start of a director's run on Monday. This run was a little different: Students who donated canned goods had an easier run in return. The collected food was delivered to chaplains Tuesday for distribution.

Instructors and students at the Staff NCO Academy gather in the parking lot before the start of a director's run on Monday. This run was a little different: Students who donated canned goods had an easier run in return. The collected food was delivered to chaplains Tuesday for distribution. (Cindy Fisher / S&S)

Instructors and students at the Staff NCO Academy gather in the parking lot before the start of a director's run on Monday. This run was a little different: Students who donated canned goods had an easier run in return. The collected food was delivered to chaplains Tuesday for distribution.

Instructors and students at the Staff NCO Academy gather in the parking lot before the start of a director's run on Monday. This run was a little different: Students who donated canned goods had an easier run in return. The collected food was delivered to chaplains Tuesday for distribution. (Cindy Fisher / S&S)

Some of the canned goods from students before the start of the academy director's first food-drive run on Camp Hansen on Monday.

Some of the canned goods from students before the start of the academy director's first food-drive run on Camp Hansen on Monday. (Cindy Fisher / S&S)

CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa — Some military families will have a heartier Thanksgiving meal thanks to a group of sweaty runners.

The staff of the Staff Noncommissioned Officers Academy held its first food run for students in its Sergeant’s, Career and Advanced Courses. Students donated a can of food or other nonperishable items and got a break on the academy director’s run Monday: They got to skip Pork Chop and Lamb Chop hills.

The academy also invited other units to contribute and collected about 292 pounds of food. It was given to Camp Hansen chaplains on Tuesday, to distribute where they felt it was most needed.

Master Gunnery Sgt. Joel Schultz, the director, said the academy has a reputation for being a “PT academy and we’re trying to show Marines that isn’t true,” that the academy is about building leadership.

Military families getting by on a shoestring budget need help; it’s important that Marine leaders care for them, he said.

To that end, the staff puts together one community-related activity each session. With Thanksgiving here, it was only natural to “do something that supports the young military families” on Okinawa, he said.

And, it was great idea, said Sgt. Melanie Rodriguez, a Sergeants Course student.

“Every commander should do something like this on special occasions. There are always people out there who need food,” she said.

Her classmate, Sgt. Joshua Barrett, echoed that sentiment. It wasn’t about getting out of running the two toughest hills on Camp Hansen, he said, it was about helping people. “Not running the hills was just a bonus.”


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