CAMP RED CLOUD -- Warrior Country's flag football season is just weeks away, and Area I sports officials are reminding Soldiers to sign up soon if they want to take part in one of Area I's most popular team sports.
Teams are open to males and females but under Army rules governing "contact" sports, only Soldiers or other active-duty military personnel may play.
The season runs from Sept. 10 through Nov. 7 and is Area I's second most popular sport after softball, with as many as 50 to 65 teams typically competing in a season, said Larry O. Butler, director of Sports, Fitness and Aquatics with U.S. Army Garrison Red Cloud and Area I.
Those wanting to participate must first have a letter of intent signed by their unit commander, giving them permission to play, said Butler.
They can get the needed letter of intent form from their local fitness center manager. Once their unit commander signs it, they should give it to their unit-level representative, who will turn it in to the appropriate Area I sports officials, Butler said.
"The most important paperwork is the letter of intent, so we can put 'em on the schedule," he said. "If we don't have the letter of intent, they can't play."
Army flag football in South Korea is played under United States Flag Touch League (USFTL) rules.
Teams of seven players compete on a 40-by-80 yard field. The field is divided into four zones and offensive teams have four downs to reach the next zone, at which point they gain a first down.
As in pro football, teams score touchdowns by getting the ball past the goal line of the opposing team. But instead of tackling opposing players, the defensive team pulls the "flag" from the ball-carrier's waist.
"Everyone wears a belt that has two flags on it," said Butler. "So they're downed when you pull the flag. And the ball-carrier cannot take his hand and try to knock your hand away."
The game also sets limits on physical contact between opposing players and forbids such things as extended arm blocking or hits above the shoulder.
Area I flag football competition is in two categories, unit-level and battalion level.
Unit-level competition is scheduled for Sept. 10 through Oct. 17.
A championship tournament for teams from the Casey and Red Cloud enclaves is scheduled for Oct. 22 and 23. The Casey enclave in Dongducheon fields teams from Camp Casey and Camp Hovey; the Red Cloud enclave in Uijeongbu fields teams from Camp Red Cloud and Camp Stanley.
The Area I championship is scheduled for Oct. 27 and 28 at Schoonover Bowl stadium on Camp Casey.
The Army's Korea-wide flag football championship is scheduled for Nov. 1 and 2 on Camp Walker in Daegu.
Area I battalion-level competition runs Nov. 4 through 7 at the Schoonover Bowl.
Flag football is one of the five sports that form the core of the Army's unit-level sports program, said Butler. The others are softball, basketball, volleyball and soccer.
Those wanting more information on Area I flag football can call local fitness centers, as follows:
• Camp Red Cloud, 732-6309
• Camp Stanley, 732-5460
• Camp Casey (Carey Physical Fitness Center), 730-2323
• Camp Casey (Hanson Field House), 730-3220
• Camp Hovey, 730-1977
Sgt. Christopher Billington is among Area I Soldiers looking forward to the start of the season.
Billington, 28, of the 2nd Infantry Division's Company C, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, will serve as head coach for his company's flag football team this season.
What sets flag football apart from other sports he's played is the thrill of applying "strategy" and the drama of sudden turns of fortune.
"It's like a chess match, gaining ground," said Billington. "It's like a battle out there on the field. Each play is determining whether you advance or don't advance. The unexpectedness of -- you don't know, anything can happen on any down."
Pvt. Harrison Coakley, 18, also of Company C, is eager to play on his company's team this season.
Coakley played football growing up but never as a member of a formally organized team, and never flag football, but he's eager to learn the game and play in a team setting, he said.
"I just wanted to try it out," he said. "'Cause personally, football is one of my favorite sports and I seen the opportunity to actually join one of the teams."
The closer he gets to the season's start, he said, the more it's been on his mind.
"Just finally getting an opportunity to play," said Coakley, "and hopefully doin' well when I get on the field."