By Spc. Roland HaleOctober 24, 2010
CAMP TAJI, Iraq -- Soldiers serving on Camp Taji, Iraq, with an aviation brigade faced off Oct. 23, during a unit competition testing their technical expertise in areas ranging from vehicle operations to equipment maintenance.
The Sustainment Games were organized as a morale building event, and gave support troops a chance to show-off and stand-out from their aviation peers, who usually take most of the unit's spotlight. During the competition, it was neither pilots nor gunners, but rather fuelers and mechanics who took center stage in the unit-wide competition.
"I think it means a lot to them," said Command Sgt. Maj. Aaron Alexander, a native of Lacey's Spring, Ala. "It breaks up the daily routine of a deployment, and they get to see who is the best, from mechanic skills to driving skills."
Alexander is the senior noncommissioned officer for the 601st Aviation Battalion, the unit that hosted the games. The battalion deployed this March from Fort Riley, Kan., as the designated support asset of the Enhanced Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division.
"I don't think a lot of people realize how good some of these guys are at what they do," said 2nd Lt. Jerimiah Wood, a native of Manhattan, Kan., and the officer in charge of the competition. "This was a chance for our guys to get out of the office, and show everyone what it takes to do their jobs."
Perhaps the most challenging event of the day was setting up a forward arming and refueling point, or FARP, a point at which helicopters can land for fuel and armament. Several teams of Soldiers took turns competing for the best times in building a FARP.
"They had to set up a series of 50-foot hoses that could support the refueling of four aircraft. It involves a lot of running around in the heat, hooking up nozzles and stretching out the hoses," said Wood.
Spc. Christopher Vibbert, a native of Van Wert, Ohio, helped his team set up their FARP. As a mechanic by trade, it was new experience for him.
"I was lost out there, throwing hoses all over the place, but my team backed me up and we did pretty good," said Vibbert. "It was a friendly atmosphere, and I think everyone was here to support the teams and have fun."
For Spc. Jeremiah Pringle a competitor and native of Florence, S.C., the competition came at just the right time. The unit has been deployed to Iraq for nearly nine months now, and its Soldiers eagerly await their return home. In the meantime, Pringle said, events like this keep the troops' morale up.
"We've got a couple months left, and we're doing good," said Pringle. "Just like this competition, motivation and dedication is all it takes, and we'll be home soon."