Turkey Bowl
Command Sgt. Maj. Clifton Johnson, senior enlisted advisor of the 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), Backbone quarterback and a Lima, Ohio, native, tries to pick up a few extra yards during the 3rd Sust. Bde. annual Turkey Bowl, held at Killeen Field Nov. 20 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.

<b>JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq</b> It wasn't quite the Super Bowl, but for the officers and noncommissioned officers with the 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), the Turkey Bowl on Nov. 20 was the biggest game of the year.

The officers, known as the "Enforcers," would try to claim the title of Turkey Bowl champions from the NCOs at Joint Base Balad's Killeen Field. They came out of the gate swinging, quickly scoring the first touchdown of the game.

However, the NCOs, known as the "Backbone," refused to give the Enforcers an easy win. In an epic battle, the Backbone defended their title, winning 24-12 and earning bragging rights as two-time Turkey Bowl champs. Despite the score, both teams gave a physical show of strength and speed throughout the game.

"It was an awesome game," said team coordinator and Enforcers quarterback Capt. Lonnie Williams, the assistant operations officer with the 3rd Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Sust. Bde., and a Charleston, S.C., native. "Everyone put in maximum effort all the way until the last buzzer." He added that many of the officers were older than the NCOs, so he felt his team was taken lightly.

"We had some underrated players who showed up and played really, really well," Capt. Williams said. "There was no one player; it was a collective effort, and we did better than many expected."

Master Sergeant Paul Lloyd, the Backbone wide receiver and support operations transportation noncommissioned officer-in-charge with the 3rd Sust. Bde., admitted that the Enforcers were taken lightly at first.

"They surprised us and went straight down the field," he said. "We really didn't have an answer for them for the first three offensive possessions when they had the ball."

The Turkey Bowl is a flag football competition that began in 2009 with the 3rd Sust. Bde., back at Fort Stewart, Ga., and is traditionally played the week of Thanksgiving. Each team is allowed up to 15 players, all of whom must be assigned or attached to the brigade headquarters or its special troops battalion. Additionally, each team must have a female player on the field at all times.

Master Sergeant Lloyd, an Orlando, Fla., native, who participated in last year's event as well, said he felt this year's Turkey Bowl was more competitive. "Both teams actually took more time out and practiced more," he said. "There was much more structure on both sides of the ball. There was actually strategy built into this year's game."

Sergeant First Class Jennifer Atherton, the 3rd Sust. Bde. Force Protection NCO and a native of The Villages, Fla, said she had "a lot of fun."

"I've always enjoyed football in any form because of the way I was brought up," she said. "Being the NCOs against the officers just adds a little more of a spin to things."

For many, the competitiveness and fun were just the goals the Turkey Bowl was meant to have. Captain Williams and Master Sgt. Lloyd agreed that, although the Enforcers and Backbone were enemies on the field, the game actually brought everyone closer.

"I think things like this are important because they build esprit de corps and camaraderie throughout the unit," said Master Sgt. Lloyd. "It helps us to understand that in spite of the mission, there's always a chance for us to sit back, let our hair down, have some fun and relax. Athletics has always been a part of our society, and it helps to give us a little character."

Captain Williams agreed, adding that the event promoted cohesion among all participants. "I had some officer's say after the game that they wished they were out there," he said. "This is something that should be continued year after year. There was a little bragging after the game and at the barbecue after, but we were back on mission; it didn't separate us."

That time may come sooner than later. Some of the officers have already issued a challenge to the NCOs to compete in a Christmas Bowl.

"I've heard the rumors," said Master Sgt. Lloyd. "If they're up to the challenge, I don't think we'll have a problem."

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