AFRICOM goes for gold in ‘Olympics’

Aaron Letteer leads the command group of U.S. Africa Command in a tug-of-war competition during the AFRICOM Olympics July 15 on Kelley Barracks. (Photo Credit: Joseph Mancy.
Aaron Letteer leads the command group of U.S. Africa Command in a tug-of-war competition during the AFRICOM Olympics July 15, 2011 on Kelley Barracks. Photo Credit: Joseph Mancy.

On July 15, U.S. Africa Command hosted its first “Olympics” on Kelley Barracks.
More than 1,200 AFRICOM service members, Department of Defense civilians and their family members competed in 32 different events.

While the AFRICOM Olympics was designed to build camaraderie within the command, it was also a chance for everyone to enjoy summer food, games and social activities.

Gen. Carter F. Ham, AFRICOM commander, held the event to thank AFRICOM members and their families for the hard work and sacrifices they’ve made throughout the year.

“The credit rightfully goes to our commander, Gen. Carter Ham. It was his vision from the very start,” said AFRICOM Senior Enlisted Advisor Chief Master Sgt. Jack Johnson Jr., who provided remarks during the event. “He realized through experience … that building morale and esprit de corps is often gained through teamwork and healthy competition.

“Additionally, having a picnic and including our families tells them that they, too, are an important part of the AFRICOM team and we appreciate them.”
The event included traditional Olympic events such as basketball, weightlifting and volleyball. It also included a three-legged race, dizzy bat relay, tug-of-war competition and egg run, along with a spirited game of musical chairs.

When participants weren’t battling it out on the field, they could also take part in a hula hoop contest, face painting, chili cook-off and eating contests.

The variety of events had the desired effect on the AFRICOM team, Johnson said: it provided the many directorates in attendance with a sense of solidarity.
“At the very start of the Olympics … personnel in each directorate saw members of the other directorates as just that — members of another directorate,” Johnson said. “As the day’s competition progressed, AFRICOM members began talking, laughing, eating and sharing time together.

“Family members met new acquaintances and kids played with each other as if they had been lifelong friends. By the end of the Olympics … those individual formations of directorates had vanished, and all [were] on one team.”
The top three winners for each event accumulated points for their directorate.  After the points were tallied, the J3/J4 directorate earned first place, followed by Marine Forces Africa in second and J1/8 in third.

The spirit award, presented to the directorate that demonstrated the most enthusiasm, went to J5.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur once said, “On the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that on other days and other fields will bear the fruits of victory.”

While some might not consider musical chairs friendly strife, it certainly sowed the seeds for next year’s AFRICOM Olympics.