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April 05, 2013

New Army Sports Program to pit battalion against battalion

By Tim Hipps, IMCOM Public Affairs

SAN ANTONIO (Army News Service, April 4, 2013) -- If Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno has his way, super-athletic battalions someday will be crowned sports champions of the U.S. Army.

Flag Football
Photo Credit: U.S. Air ForceStaff Sgt. Dayton Mitchell
U.S. Soldiers with Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division play flag football at Forward Operating Base Ramrod, Afghanistan, Nov. 10, 2009. Women's and men's flag football will be featured in the fall season of the Army Sports Program, which will pit battalions against battalions around the Army. Men's and women's cross country and softball also will be contested in the fall. In the spring, men's and women's basketball, volleyball and soccer will be played, along with men's and women's combatives.

The "Army Sports Program" is headed this spring to installations and garrisons worldwide. Not to be confused with intramural sports leagues provided by Army Morale, Welfare and Recreation, or MWR, the Army Sports Program will pit battalions against one another in seven men's and women's team and individual core sports.

"The MWR intramural sports program that's been in existence forever on the garrisons gives commanders the ability to allow civilians and family members with ties to units a chance to play. They augment so that we can have small units playing in intramural sports programs," said Bob Vogt, acting division chief of Soldier and Community Recreation at the U.S. Army Installation Management Command headquarters on Joint Base San Antonio Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

"The battalion sports program is a Soldier-only program. The intent was to do it at the battalion level so we can get the best Soldier-athletes to represent their battalion as they move forward. So we're going to increase the level of competition by doing that. It should make it a much more exciting program, and that's the main difference between the two," Vogt explained. "This is recognizing the best Soldier-athletes in the Army

The semi-annual competition will include men's and women's basketball, volleyball and soccer in the spring, along with coed combative teams, and men's and women's flag football, softball and cross country in the fall.

"The beauty of the program is it provides another opportunity for Soldiers to compete in a competitive sport and create unit esprit de corps," Vogt said. "Crowning a champion and moving forward like we've done in the past in the Army is something you never forget in your Army career. We're trying to give the Soldiers that opportunity one more time."

The goals of the command-directed program are to help build resiliency, increase Soldier and unit interest in athletic and sports activities, and advance opportunities for Soldiers to compete at the Army level.

"The Army Sports Program embodies key elements of comprehensive Soldier fitness -- building physical fitness, strengthening resilience, fostering teamwork and camaraderie -- while ultimately offering Soldiers positive activity choices during discretionary times, thereby reducing Soldier opportunities to engage in high-risk opportunities," read the operations order signed by Lt. Gen. Mike Ferriter, commander of Installation Management Command, or IMCOM.

Putting the program in an order should ensure garrisons participate in the program.

"Competitive sports enhance individual physical fitness, develop confidence and self-esteem, build unit cohesion, and foster esprit de corps," the order continued.

The plan is for the Army Sports Program to eventually consist of three phases; beginning with installation battalion competitions that lead to region invitational championships and culminating in a Chief of Staff of the Army Sports Championships. Because of current financial challenges, the regional and Army-wide portions of the program are cancelled for 2013 and may be implemented later.

This year, battalions will compete for local sports supremacy. IMCOM garrison commanders and garrison directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, in coordination with senior commanders, will plan, market, and deliver phase one of the Army Sports Program to promote and increase Soldier, leader and unit interest in participation in sports and athletic activities, thereby supporting the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness initiatives.

The intent is to maximize Soldier participation. Army National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers are eligible to compete with their battalions. Units are allowed to combine to form a battalion team if they are too small to field a team of their own.

The Army Sports Program will be funded by senior commanders through the use of operation and management funds. Garrison sports offices will document participation by entering results quarterly in the Army Community Recreation Reports Online. Garrison public affairs offices will cover the competitions.

The inaugural spring season of the Army Sports Program is scheduled for May, coincidentally, National Sports and Fitness Month.

The Army Sports Program will help the Army align with the Department of Defense's Healthy Base Initiative. As a project of Operation Live Well, the goal is to help increase the health and wellness of the entire military force. Soldiers and their families, along with Department of Defense civilians, are urged to take charge of their health through nutrition and fitness.

Once the Army executes the program in its entirety, each installation will select one battalion-level men's and women's team in each of the six sports to compete at the regional level.

The top two men's and women's teams in each sport at the Region Invitational Championships will advance to the CSA Army Championships. The combative teams, featuring one man and one woman, will bypass regional competition and advance directly to the CSA Army Championships.

In the end, Army men's and women's championship teams will be crowned in each of the six sports, along with a mixed squad of combative champions.

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