Football and baseball loving Soldiers from Bravo Company, Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) played a different kind of ball game recently.
The Sky Soldiers were invited to play the traditional Italian sport of bocce March 15 in the nearby town of Camisano, where they learned some new bowling techniques while strengthening personal relationships between the Italian and American communities.
The bocce took place at the Camisano bocciodromo, an indoor bowling arena, as a gesture of thanks and recognition for the Soldiers' participation in a number of service projects in Camisano over the past six months.
"A large majority of these projects have involved the Camisano Chapter of the Alpini Association," said Capt. Kevin Ryan, Military Intelligence commander of Company B. "We've painted the local school and helped clean up the landscape of the Alpini building, among other projects. This past Saturday, 1st Lt. (Matthew) Arevian and Sgt. 1st Class (Christopher) Edwards led 30 members of their platoon and families in a bocce ball game with the Alpini in Camisano."
Mayor of Camisano Renzo Marangon presented 1st Lt. Matthew Arevian, who represented the platoon, with two plaques expressing the town's gratitude for the Soldiers' service before play got under way.
"I am honored to have here in Camisano the Soldiers from the 173rd Brigade and see how our bonds of friendship and partnership between the American and Camisano communities develop and become stronger," said Marangon.
Once the bocce got rolling, the three game lanes inside the arena became a sort of sports theater for several matches between American and Italian teams. Each game saw two three-member teams face off. Each player threw one ball per match, aiming to get as close as possible to the smaller ball, the jack, known as the boccino. Only the ball closest to the boccino scored points in any frame, and the teams competed to score the maximum of 10 points to win each game on the way to the final.
"It was truly a pleasure to be able to participate in a bocce ball event with the residents of Camisano," said Arevian at the end of the friendly competition. "The Mayor, the deputy, the Alpini soldiers, and the community members were very gracious hosts. We hope to continue our involvement in Camisano, both as volunteers in the schools and in the bocce arena," he said.
"The event wound up being much larger than just a friendly game," said Ryan.
Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Edwards, playing bocce for the first time ever, said, "It was an honor to learn the game from such a skilled and gracious host of Italian players. The friendship between the Soldiers of the 173rd and our partners in Camisano continues to grow."
After a couple of closely contested hours of bowling, an American team consisting of Sgt. Brennan Sharp, Spc. Cameron Steele and Spc. David Pierson made it to the final round against an Italian team. The balls started rolling and the Italians pulled out a victory with a tight score of 10-8.
"It was just great fun and I look forward to a re-match," said Sharp, who received a framed picture from Mayor Marangon as a prize for his team's performance.
Participants also enjoyed an Italian meal prepared by the members of the local association and their wives. Before taking leave from their fellow guests, Marangon reinforced the importance of sharing such fun experiences, which help promote integration between the two communities.
"Now we are looking forward to the invitation to reciprocate our visit at Del Din to play the return match," he said.