MANAS AIR BASE, Kyrgyzstan - U.S. troops deployed in the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan celebrated the Thanksgiving Day holiday Thursday, complete with roast turkey, a parade of makeshift floats and a Santa Claus.
About 1,200 U.S. soldiers and 50 Spanish troops are stationed at the Manas Air Base, located at the Kyrgyz capital's main airport, supporting refueling and cargo missions for U.S. operations in nearby Afghanistan.
Troops received a few hours off to contact their families and to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal, which included shrimp cocktail, roast turkey, baked ham and mashed potatoes, said U.S. Air Force Col. Randy A. Kee, of Eagle River.
Several dozen Air Force personnel from Elmendorf Air Force Base near Anchorage are stationed at Manas.
"Although it is difficult to be away from our families during these holidays, each of us knows that we are doing important work in support of the war on terror, and in supporting the growth of democracy in Afghanistan," Kee told reporters.
As part of the celebration, soldiers staged a parade with military utility vehicles decorated as a turkey, a house and a satellite dish, among other things. Soldiers dressed up as Santa Claus, a chicken, a doctor, and an American Indian.
"I miss my family a little bit. It'd be nice to be home," said U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Lucas of Buffalo, New York, who declined to gave his last name. He said it was his first deployment abroad.
The Manas base is currently the only U.S. base in former Soviet Central Asia, following the eviction of U.S. troops from southern Uzbekistan. Uzbek authorities have also told NATO to withdraw its troops by Jan. 1.
The Kyrgyz and U.S. governments are currently negotiating new terms for use of the Manas base.