Monday, October 31, 2011

All-Navy Rugby Team Hold Camp at Naval Air Station Jacksonville

By Kaylee LaRocque, Naval Air Station Jacksonville Public Affairs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- Naval Air Station Jacksonville hosted the All-Navy Rugby Team's annual training camp Oct. 23-30 in preparation to compete in the Armed Forces Rugby Championships which are being held this week at Fort Benning, Ga.

The week was full practice sessions on the field at Sea King Park on a specially designed field for the rugby team built and maintained by the base Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Department. The team also participated in fitness classes at the Fitness Source and several scrimmages with local college and city rugby teams.

"We are here for training camp to put together a team to compete in the Armed Forces Rugby Championships. We began the week with 34 players coming in from all over the world and have to reduce that number down to 25 for the competition," said All-Navy Rugby Team Head Coach Tom Jones.

The training camp consists of a lot of hard work and quite a few bumps and bruises. The team practices ball handling, line-out maneuvers, lifting techniques, situational moves, penalties and team concepts.

"We have been running two to three training sessions each day in a very jam-packed week. We've also participated in three matches against the University of Florida, University of North Florida and the local men's rugby teams," said Jones.

"We have to put this team together quickly and these guys know that the task ahead of them is not only to play together but to learn our system and take care of themselves and remain fit throughout the week. It's a trial by fire," said Jones. "A lot of these guys are first time players so they are taking it all in. We really have a great team with a lot of talent this year."

"They are definitely coming together as a team and listening to what we are teaching them. They are following the game plans and I really think we have a great shot in the championship this year," added Assistant Coach Steve Lynch.

The NAS Jax MWR Department coordinated all the logistics for the team including lodging in the MWR cabins on base, transportation and dining needs and escorting them to the championship games. 

"We love coming here - the weather is great and the hospitality we receive here is outstanding. This is our fourth year here and we are well taken care of by the MWR folks and the NAS Jax community," said Jones. "We really want to thank the base for hosting us and for letting this be our home for our training camp."

The team was met by NAS Jax Executive Officer Capt. Bob Sanders who officially welcomed them to the base. "Everyone of you should hold your head high for just being here. You are representing the U.S. Navy. It is honor and a privilege to welcome you and I wish you all good luck," said Sanders.

Aviation Electronics Technician 2nd Class (AW) Max Delpivo of the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit Jax plays rugby with the Jacksonville Axemen, a semi-professional rugby league team and decided to try out for the All-Navy Rugby Team.

"This is a challenge that I never thought I would be doing. The camp is strenuous and it's been a learning process. I knew enough coming into this, but it's quantified during camp. From the videos we've been watching of the previous teams in the past championships, compared to our team now, I think we can have a good shot at winning," said Delpivo.

Players are selected from a pool of about 500 individuals vying for a spot on the All-Navy Rugby Team each year. Scouts are based in different regions around the world to help decide which players are selected to attend the training camp. To attend training camp, players are given no-cost temporary additional duty orders by their commands. Navy Sports picks up the tab for these camps.

Iraq troop departure not the end for Wisconsin Guard deployments

Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office

The Wisconsin Army National Guard's last troops in Iraq are expected to be home ahead of the Dec. 31 troop departure.

Capt. Randall Ramm, the officer in charge of the approximately 30 Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers in detachments of companies C, D and E of the 2nd Battalion, 135th GSAB - comprised of National Guard Soldiers from multiple states - said the drawdown has affected his unit, which is providing medevac support for United States Division-North. Originally stationed at four operating bases in northern Iraq, personnel and aircraft have moved around as bases closed. Comfort services, such as the Post Exchange, dining facilities, mail and laundry have gradually disappeared as bases "retrograded" during the drawdown.

In spite of that, Ramm said the medevac mission continues.

"With the base closures, we've had to cover other bases outside of our usual area for a few weeks," he explained.

Roughly half of the Wisconsin contingent of National Guard Soldiers remain at an operating base in Kirkuk, with the rest in Kuwait preparing for the unit's return home.

President Barack Obama announced the troop departure Oct. 21, affecting approximately 40,000 service members.

"The last American Soldiers will cross the border out of Iraq with their heads held high, proud of their success and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops," Obama said. "That is how America's military efforts in Iraq will end."

The Dec. 31, 2011 troop departure was determined in a 2008 bilateral security pact.

Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin, said that the Wisconsin National Guard can be proud of the role it has played, and continues to play, in national defense since 2001.

"We answered the call," he said. "We are still answering the call, as can be seen with our troops preparing to deploy to Kosovo and Afghanistan. And we remain ready to respond when called for state or federal service, at home or overseas."

The Wisconsin Army National Guard will still have more than 200 Soldiers and Airmen on active duty when the 2nd Battalion, 135th troops return to Wisconsin.