Division West's 166th Aviation Brigade uses fantasy football for team-building
September 25, 2013
FORT HOOD, Texas -- Unit commanders historically have utilized creative measures to establish team-building events to serve as ice-breakers allowing units to better communicate.
First Army Division West's 166th Aviation Brigade uses Fantasy Football to connect with their geographically displaced formations here recently.
"With four active duty battalions and two reserve component battalions located in four different locations in three states it is impossible to get the entire brigade in one place," said Lt. Col. Phil Graham, 166th AV deputy brigade commander. "So virtually, through fantasy football, we can all participate in a fun competition and team build."
Col. Kevin Vizzarri, 166th AV commander, gathered personnel at his off-post home locally, telephonically, and online to conduct the 2nd Annual GreyWing Fantasy Football League Draft. Over 130 people attended the draft and Family Readiness Group team-building party/shrimp boil to include Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps Jr., Division West commanding general, and Col. Gregory Reilly, Division West chief of staff.
Jana Cameron, the brigade personnel coach, even Skype-d with her husband, Sgt. Maj. Eric Cameron, a squadron sergeant major with 1st Cavalry Division in Afghanistan to help her draft her team.
"Last year, my husband helped me out in person, and it was fun," said Cameron. "This league helps us as a couple while he is deployed. Our conversations can now turn to this instead of the normal countdown of days."
Good units become great units when they communicate up and down the chain of command but more importantly, laterally, Vizzarri said.
"The intent is to open the lines of communication. I have successfully been doing this in units since 2005 when we were deployed in Afghanistan," said Vizzarri. "It takes your mind off of the stress of the deployment and starts a conversation with Staff that leads to the more important operational coordination."
The league has fourteen teams with coaches from each of the six battalions, various brigade staff sections, and a joint team ran by Graham and the Maj. Doug Fullerton, 166th AV brigade executive officer. Vizzarri and Command Sgt. Maj. Glen Vela, 166th AV brigade command sergeant major, share a team together to make things more interesting.
Even last year's champion, Maj. Joseph Parker, now serving as the First Army commander's executive officer, has a team as he attempts to defend his title as the league champion. He earned a 'dog-tag' identification as the 2012 FFL winner, while a second tag was placed on the official league trophy for permanent reminder of his accomplishments in the league.
"This really adds to the brigade's esprit de corps. We're all getting too old to play and it's always good to beat your boss," said Parker, who was a former West Point Football team place kicker.
What makes fantasy football so unique and congenial is that it goes beyond the ho-hum of rooting for your favorite team during the regular season. Like the Army and the 166th Aviation Brigade, fantasy football makes you go outside of your comfort zone with new people and places, new teams and players from teams you don't normally support.
"You become an NFL fan, not just your favorite team's fan," Vizzarri said.
That meant compromise, especially for Vizzarri, a Philadelphia native and die-hard Eagles fan, and his co-coach, Vela, a die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan.
"You try not to use your heart to make draft picks, but I also try not to draft any Cowboys. We compromised, and we did draft a Cowboy, the kicker, Dan Bailey," added Vizzarri.
With first weeks of the football season already on the books, the 'trash talk' of the 166th Aviation Brigade Fantasy Football League Draft is now a memory. Busts, Sleepers, and the Waiver Wire Picks are the new topics of initial conversations between battalions and staff sections, but this quickly transitions into coordination for training the next reserve aviation units.
The next 166th FFL Champion will be crowned in 16 weeks, along with the last place team with the "BAD-azzle ball," a Nerf football with plastic jewels and your unit's name on a plaque.
"My battalion won this award last year, but it's all in good fun. It motivates us to do better this year while hopefully maintaining great players on our roster such as Joe Flacco," said Fullerton.
The 166th Aviation Brigade is a unique organization made of senior officers, warrants and non-commissioned officers who serve as trainer/mentors for United States Army National Guard and Reserve component mobilized aviation formations.