By 2nd Lt. Patrick Cooney, 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense ArtilleryOctober 16, 2012
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa (Oct. 16, 2012) -- The U.S. Army Japan team's "Words to Live By" campaign contains five rules that all Soldiers, Civilians and family members living in Japan should seek to follow.
First, we should always strive to do what is right legally, ethically and morally in all of our actions. By following this first rule, we will only naturally practice the "Golden Rule" and treat others as we wish to be treated. We must also create a balance in our personal lives by maintaining our spiritual, physical and mental fitness. Finally, we must make certain that others will share these values by developing tomorrow's leaders and ensuring that our families are not just "Army Strong," but also prepared.
I offer 1st Lt. Luis Maldonado and the members of "Too Much Awesome," the Kadena Youth Sports soccer team, as an example of these values in action. Maldonado is the fire control leader of C Battery, 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment, located at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa.
I was introduced to Maldonado as my sponsor upon arriving to Okinawa. During the first few weeks, he and I talked over a myriad of topics. As the topics changed, he shared his enthusiasm to coach a youth soccer team in the fall. I could hear the excitement in his voice as he shared his great love for the sport.
Maldonado grew up in an Army family and played youth soccer at the many installations where his father was stationed to include Fort Bragg, N.C., and Fort Hood, Texas. He continued to play well into high school and carried his innate ability to college, where he was a star in the club leagues. His experience demonstrated a positive effect on his life, both physically and socially. For a sport that has enriched his life so much, he told me that coaching ensures others will feel the same challenges and joys the game has given him.
Too Much Awesome is made up of children ages 11 to 12 from a variety of military branches serving on Okinawa. The children voted on their team name after a few practices and they certainly live up to it. Children of military parents living on Okinawa are presented with experiences that are enriching and rewarding, and yet vastly different from what they have been socialized to in the United States. Competitive sports offer tremendous opportunities and are a reminder of home. Playing a sport like soccer also gives the children a chance to show all they've learned in front of their parents on game day.
Maldonado's commitment to the Army Values is beyond reproach and serve as a platform to exercise his coaching experience and serve as a role model. These values include Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage. Integrity is an important Army Value and it encapsulates the "Words to Live By."
Since Maldonado began coaching the youth soccer team, I have observed him in action on multiple occasions. His diligence to impart these values is incredible, and it is obvious each player has an appreciation for his profession. He ensures each member of his team knows, understands and follows the rules of the game. He achieves his goal when everything comes to fruition and each teammate treats one another -- including members of other teams -- with the highest degree of dignity and respect in sportsmanship.
With all of the running involved in a typical soccer game, each member of Too Much Awesome understands that maintaining their physical fitness is a must. Maldonado said he planned to begin the team's practices with rigorous physical training. These sessions involved a variety of cardiovascular exercises: sprints, ladder drills and passing drills. Some teammates may complain about sore legs after the first few days, but will soon realize that these challenging days will ultimately lead to the culmination of their success as a team during a real game.
Maldonado expressed that the universal sport of soccer will always have an impact on his life. Not long ago he was just like many of the children on his team: full of spirited energy, filled with a love for the game, and looking to spend time with friends. The children he coaches today can continue to play in a variety of leagues as they grow into adulthood.
For these reasons I noticed that he takes a special interest in explaining the strategy and tactics behind the game to his team, conveying his thoughts on a level easily understood. 1st Lt. Maldonado's goal is to instill a love for the game in each child, and to develop a new generation of players who are Army Strong!