By 1st Lt. Herbert Karg, 716th Quartermaster CompanyJanuary 26, 2010
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq - Soldiers from the 716th Quartermaster Company, 80th Ordnance Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), of out Jersey City, N.J., have found time to relieve some stress, and play some football.
The team, called the "Dark Knights" gather at Killeen Field on Joint Base Balad to compete weekly in a game of flag football.
The time difference from the states doesn't permit watching the National Football League, as many people do on Sunday afternoons, and rather than watch re-runs, the Soldiers play in their own league.
One of the Soldiers, Sgt. Marcus Smith, a Pittsburgh, native, wanted to get in on the flag football action.
Together with Staff Sgt. Robert Rivera, the team's coach and native of Jersey City, NJ, the Soldiers formed a team, and the "Dark Knights" were born.
The team joined late in the already running regular season and played their first game against the 514th Maintenance Company out of Fort Drum, N.Y., "Bulldogs" on Jan. 3 and lost 13-6.
Rivera said that he has seen progress in the team since the first game.
"The team never practiced before the first game and only lost by a touchdown," Rivera said. "This team has a lot of heart and has the capability to win it all. I see we are getting better game by game."
The loss during the first game did not set the team back. They persevered and kept their spirits high. After finally having a practice, they took on the Air Force's "49ers" on Jan. 10 and won 13-6.
The team doesn't go into their games alone, there are always Soldiers clapping and cheering from the stands.
"Having a company flag football team is good for morale," Rivera said. "I would like to thank our fans for all of their support so far this season."
"It's a great thing to come out here and cheer on our team. I'm very proud of my Soldiers," said 1st Sgt. Nilsa Davila-Aranda, the 716th's senior noncommissioned officer and native of Bronx, N.Y.
The team now practices once a week before each game. They took on "Tha Goats" on Jan. 17, and worked to gain a lead in the first half. They weren't able to hold them off, however. A scoring drive in the second half set the "Dark Knights" back to a 18-13 loss to "Tha Goats".
The "Dark Knights" are now 1-2, but keep a positive attitude and high motivation.