<b>CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq </b> - Throughout Task Force Marne, servicemembers and civilians gathered at a central location or woke from a restful sleep and turned on their TVs at 2 a.m. to watch the Super Bowl with millions of other Americans, Feb. 8.

On Contingency Operating Base Speicher, the night began at 11:30 p.m., Feb. 7, at the main dining facility where Soldiers were greeted by upbeat tunes from the 3rd Infantry Band. Inside bustled with Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, Sailors and civilians talking and laughing over traditional Super Bowl foods such as hot wings and pizza.

"We're here with our best buddies, and we're going to watch the Super Bowl together," said Lt. Col. Donna Martin, the Task Force Marne Inspector General, 3rd Infantry Division.

The Soldiers participated in an accuracy throw contest in support of their favorite team. The most footballs thrown through a small target in 30 seconds yielded the opportunity to defeat the opposing team on a dry-erase board.

A Madden Football tournament on Playstation 3 began earlier in the day lasted through the night. Twenty-three Soldiers battled on the virtual gridiron. Awards included bragging rights, prizes and prime Super Bowl seating on a leather couch five feet in front of a big screen television.

Prior to the game Houston Texans cheerleaders performed their sideline routines, signed autographs and posed for pictures.

The game capped off a week of pre-game activities and provided a much-needed break from the rigors of a desert deployment.

Kicking off the morale-boosting week was a punt, pass and accuracy throw contest in which nearly 60 servicemembers participated. In place of shoulder pads and football helmets, servicemembers donned their individual body armor and advanced combat helmet to provide an authentic football experience. Many participants enjoyed the contest, feeling it brought a little bit of home to Iraq.

"It's like I'm in my backyard playing catch with my kids," said Sgt. Maj. Lucian Sweetenberg, the Task Force Marne G4 sergeant major, 3rd ID and overall winner of the event.

While on a desert deployment, it can be difficult for servicemembers to maintain morale. To ensure morale remains high, the coordinators of the week's events strived to make things as fun as possible.

"We wanted to boost morale, team cohesion and build esprit-de-corps in the fun spirit of the Super Bowl," said Sgt. 1st Class Andrea Johnson, noncommissioned officer in charge of operational law with 3rd ID and a coordinator for the week's events.

With such large participation in the various events throughout the week, Sgt. 1st Class Johnson and her fellow Judge Advocate General comrades went above and beyond their goal - they provided a necessary break from the routine of a deployment.

Though servicemembers were excited to watch the Super Bowl, it wasn't about which team won or lost; it was about recreating the normalcy of home. Watching the great American game of football with friends while eating hot wings had the power to momentarily transport the troops back home, if only for a few hours.

"It puts you in a home environment," Sgt. Maj. Sweetenberg said. "You feel like you're home in your living room."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16