AFRICOM Olympics competition builds esprit de corps

As the London Olympics were winding down, U.S. Africa Command staff members and their families gathered to kick off the second annual AFRICOM Olympics, held Aug. 10, 2012 on Kelley Barracks.

Participants could choose from 22 varied events, to include a 400-meter relay, basketball tournament, egg run and chili cook-off. While the games were designed to build camaraderie within the command, Gen. Carter F. Ham, the AFRICOM commander, also wanted the event to thank AFRICOM members and their families, according to  Chief Master Sgt. Jack Johnson Jr., the AFRICOM senior enlisted leader.

They also served to strengthen resilience in the AFRICOM community.
“One of the most important things that makes us effective — whether it’s civilians or whether military — is our Total Force Fitness, and that encompasses mental, social, emotional, environmental, spiritual [domains] … and this great event really answers that call,” Johnson added. When Vice Adm. Joe Leidig, deputy to the commander for military operations, fired a starter pistol to start the 400-meter relay, the games were underway. Other events followed, including an intense dodgeball contest, a pingpong competition and flag football games. One of the most popular non-athletic events was the chili cook-off, coordinated by Sgt. 1st Class Amy Bauer, noncommissioned officer in charge of the commander’s open mess. Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. O.G. Mannon, Commander of Special Operations Command Africa Rear Admiral Brian Losey, Lt. Col. George Mims, and J1/8 (Resources) Director Robert Maxwell judged the 12 entries. After much consideration, Melissa Kreitzer from the J3 (Operations and Cyber) Directorate won first place, with Kevin Levija from the headquarters staff taking second, and Jane Rathbun from the J1/8 Directorate placing third. Meanwhile, the youngest competitors tossed water balloons, raced while hula-hooping, and battled for the final spot in musical chairs. Other children enjoyed a bounce house and having their faces painted, while listening to music played by American Forces Network disc jockeys, who broadcast live from the event. For Mannon, having children participate was his favorite part of the event. “Watching the young people go along with their fathers and mothers was way cool. Being military families, we don’t get as many opportunities to do that as much as other folks do. It’s really important for the young people to do things with their families. They’ll remember this for a long time,” he said. Members of the J6/7/9 (Systems/Joint Training and Exercises/Outreach) Directorates ensured everyone received a hot meal, as they grilled 900 hamburgers and 600 hot dogs. The overall winners were announced during the closing ceremonies. The J3/4 Directorates, the reigning champions, successfully defended their title, placing first with 49 points. U.S. Marine Forces Africa, took second, only a half a point behind, and the J5 Directorate (Strategy, Plans, and Programs) placed third with 35 points. A three-way tie for the spirit award sparked an impromptu dance-off by the J5 Directorate, the command group, and the J1/8 Directorates. Command leaders unanimously ruled J1/8 as the winners.

In his closing remarks, Leidig said it best: “Thanks for all of the hard work you do every single day at AFRICOM. It’s an amazing place to be, and I’m proud to be part of this team.”