By Sgt. Roger HoughtonMay 8, 2019
Each battalion in the Spearhead Brigade put together a team for the tournament, but most of the chosen competitors were not adept softball players. By profession, these Soldiers were the 177th Armored Brigade's Observer Coach/Trainers.
Spearhead OC/Ts can usually be found providing training support and feedback to partner units in the U.S. Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve, in accordance with the Army's Total Force Policy. Today, however, they had temporarily traded their Army uniforms for activewear to face off against their sister battalions in a friendly softball tournament.
"With that said, who's going to win?" asked Col. Jack Vantress, the commander of the 177th Armored Brigade, during his opening comments. With immediate reply, each team shouted their own battalion's name, followed by collective laughter.
Along with the pride of victory, as well as bragging rights, each team competing in the tournament hoped to come away with the spear.
Each time the 177th Armored Brigade, which bears the motto "Spearhead To Victory," hosts an internal competition, the brigade's spear is handed off to whichever unit secures victory. When held upright, the spear towers over any average-height Soldier.
Competing to defend the spear was 2nd "Eagle" Battalion, 351st Infantry Regiment.
With the first games of the tournament almost underway, Soldiers reconvened with their teams and formed huddles to discuss their strategies. Not only did they have each their teammates' support, but family members and peers lined the fences to cheer and do some sideline coaching.
Teams on either side took note of their own players' skill sets as well as those of the opposition. Wrinkles in planning were smoothed and techniques were perfected as teams fought through the first innings of the tournament.
"There are former baseball players here, and some people who have never played softball," said Sgt. 1st Class Marcus Pricher, a Senior OC/T assigned to 3rd Battalion, 348th Regiment and the umpire for the tournament. "Getting everyone together, the playing field equals out."
Pricher was asked to help put together the tournament because of his extensive background in military softball games. He runs the World Sports League, which hosts softball competitions open to all branches of the U.S. Military.
From the logistics of coordinating the tournament itself, to the team captains who inspired resilient attitudes which helped teams push through extra innings, Spearhead Soldiers exercised mind, body, and spirit to conduct this team-building event.
Maj. Seth Allen, the Plans and Exercises officer for the 177th Armored Brigade, said that he found value in the physical training and team-building involved with the tournament.
"I think the camaraderie is really an important thing because you get to work with your teammates that you work with on a daily basis," said Allen. "It's just a different setting."
On the final day of the tournament, the hot Mississippi sun sat high in the sky, and players stepped up to the plate utilizing leftover momentum from the previous day of matches to propel them through to the end.
The bonds between teammates had grown even stronger. Everybody knew what each individual Soldier excelled at, and team captains were utilizing their team members to full effect.
Cpt. Dominique Mooring, an OC/T assigned to 2nd Battalion, 351st Infantry Regiment, said that his team practiced several times in preparation for the tournament.
"A lot of the guys like to play on their off-time," said Mooring. "It's a great team, and I'm happy I got here on Camp Shelby. It was a blessing to get put in this Battalion."
Teams developed their own series of call outs and hand-signals to communicate more efficiently on the field without tipping off their opponents. Playful banter from the dugout was peppered onto players before and after each play, but nobody could be shaken.
The final game was Eagle Battalion vs. 1st Battalion, 305th Infantry Regiment, "Raven." The match would decide who took home the spear.
The metallic sound of the impact between softball and bat rang out and outfielders sprinted to catch the ball as it soared toward the fence. The catch could be heard from the dugout.
Several Soldiers hit the ball out of the park, and their teammates rose from the benches and cheered while smirking batters jogged through home plate.
The atmosphere of competition could be felt as players made all-or-nothing sprints between bases and slid onto home to secure as many runs as possible.
Both teams played hard, and their good spirits showed through for the entire game. But at the end, it was Eagle who took home the win.
After a spirited team huddle, Vantress presented the Soldiers of the Eagle battalion softball team with the 177th Armored Brigade spear once again, until the next competition.
Pricher plans on hosting more tournaments on Camp Shelby in the future.