Staff members and their families at U.S. Africa Command gathered to participate and cheer on each other as amateur Olympians competed in 22 different competitions during the third annual AFRICOM Olympics held at Kelley Barracks Aug. 22.
Following a pre-ceremony stretch, Army Gen. David M. Rodriguez, commander of U.S. Africa Command, officially opened the competition.
“Enjoy the day, be safe, and let the games begin,” said Rodriguez to the applause of more than 1,600 AFRICOM civilians, military members and their families who participated in the event.
The AFRICOM Olympics promote command morale and team building through physical competition on the athletic field. Nearly a dozen teams comprised from each directorate compete against each other with a winner crowned at the end of the day. The overall goal is to give the staff a day away from the daily stresses of duties and an opportunity to build camaraderie.
“The AFRICOM Olympics are an event for the entire command, civilians, military and family members, to get together, have some camaraderie and a good time,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Manuel Griego, the AFRICOM Headquarters commandant and lead organizer of the games.
Griego and volunteers from each directorate worked together for five months to organize the event that included games such as the 400-meter relay, kickball, flag football, basketball, volleyball and ultimate Frisbee. For those not athletically inclined, other events included a chili cook-off, musical chairs, egg and water balloon toss, and a hula hoop competition.
“It’s important to take the time to get out for events like this to decompress, to break up the monotonous routines and help keep your mind going,” said Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Bruff, the assistant event organizer.
Joining the event was the AFRICOM Family Readiness Group who set up several tents to entertain young children while informing spouses of the many services they offer. Kids could have their faces painted, win a prize or help themselves to a cookie or cupcake.
“It’s important for the family members to spend time with their moms, dads, whatever the case may be, in a nice casual environment and this is something that is supported for them,” Griego said.
Special Operations Command-Africa also set up a booth that provided a photo opportunity for parents and their children.
“We’ve got a huge support from Army Garrison Stuttgart; Morale, Welfare and Recreation; the USO and the VFW. They’re all out here to support AFRICOM,” Griego said.
Hundreds of hungry athletes lined up for free hot dogs, hamburgers and drinks. to the sounds of a DJ who played classic rock from the 70s, 80s and 90s.
And while SOCAF now gets to wear the crown and earned bragging rights for the next year, many would agree that the real winner is the entire command who had the opportunity to end the summer on a sunny, flawless day enjoying AFRICOM’s esprit de corps.