By SPC Erica VinyardMarch 17, 2009
Spc. Tyler J. Stratford is one of six Soldiers who represented his country to the rest of the world in a world-wide military mens' soccer tournament.
Stratford's team took home the bronze medal from the Conseil International du Sport Militaire Continental Championship (CISM), Feb. 27 at Shotwell Stadium, Dyess Air Force Base, Tx.
Spc. Stratford is an infantryman of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) where he has served for nearly two years. He currently is the Deputy Regimental Commander's driver.
In January, Stratford started off his second year of All-Army men's soccer as a left wingman and was the youngest player on the All-Army Team and Team USA.
After six 90 minute games in six days, All-Army placed first against other services. Stratford played all but 15 minutes. All-Army is the only team to hold first or second place for ten years running.
Stratford was selected by his coaches to represent the U.S. in CISM, the week-long tournament occurring every two years, which also featured Brazil, Barbados, Canada, and Suriname.
'Team USA' included six Soldiers plus head coach, six Marines, three Airmen, and three Sailors.
"We only had 10 days to get our team ready for the tournament, while the other countries' teams had months to practice together," said Stratford. "I thought we did great, given the limited amount of time we had to gel as a team."
CISM is a chance for service members to substitute the battlefield for the playing field.
Despite the cultural differences and language barriers, our love for soccer, the military and our country remain the same, said Stratford.
The talent level across the 'battlefield' was very competitive.
Brazil defeated Barbados 3-0 for the gold medal. The United States won the 3rd place game defeating Suriname 2-1. The United States finished the tournament with two wins and one tie.
The teams gained friendships and a better understanding about each other throughout the tournament.
"This was an excellent experience for our players," said Sgt. First Class Agustin Mendez, Team USA head coach. "It provides friendship through sport and also the highest level of soccer most of these guys will ever get to play."
I enjoyed the interaction with the other countries and trading soccer and military memorabilia amongst each other, said Stratford.
Stratford used the skills he obtained through the Army to help him succeed on the soccer field.
Basic Combat Training was helpful in paving the way for my achievements, said Stratford, who graduated as Honor Graduate of his company in basic training.
Stratford's leaders recognized the soccer star for his success.
"Stratford is a well-behaved, helpful Soldier, a great athlete especially in running and excels in everything he does, said Sgt. Eric N. North, who used to be in Stratford's platoon in Honor Guard Company.
"Not only does Spc. Stratford provide great athleticism but also tactical knowledge as one of the few infantrymen we have in our platoon full of administrative Soldiers," said Staff Sgt. Matthew H. O'Brien, platoon sergeant. "His stamina and expertise of his trade is a great asset to our platoon. Now, that's what I call Army Strong."