Military News

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A small team looks forward with big goals

by Airman 1st Class Cary Smith
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs


1/15/2016 - AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy  -- BALL OUT!

A ball spirals into play and rugby players thunder down the field.

Cold breaths linger in the air and hands feel numb as the new rugby team practices in the early sunset.

"I wanted to start a rugby team here at Aviano after falling in love with the sport in Korea," said Staff Sgt. Lee Cundiff, 31st Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordinance disposal journeyman. "Rugby is a fun, physically demanding sport."

The team meets every Tuesday and Thursday, warms up and runs through several practice drills to challenge the team's critical thinking skills and build physical endurance.

While on the field, players constantly evaluate both offensive and defensive positions and possible plays to execute. The sport is a continuous flow of action with lines of players shifting back and forth. The game's fluid motion requires players to know where they should be at all times and where the other team plans to move the ball.

Despite the physically demanding nature of the game, everyone is encouraged to join regardless of fitness level. The camaraderie of the sport allows everyone to fit in with the rugby family.

"I knew nothing about the sport, so I decided to come to a practice" said Airman 1st Class Christopher Linn, 31st CES fire fighter. "Now that I've seen the drills and met the players, I see myself sticking with it."

So why does this new team work through bruises and bitter cold? They push themselves to prepare for mental and physical challenges they may face during scrimmages and matches.

"I'm coordinating with local Italian rugby teams, and if we can get into a league, we can try to compete in tournaments." said Cundiff.

The new team will experience European cultures first hand when they play against teams in local communities and surrounding countries. Cundiff and his teammates hope to build a solid group of participants to take advantage of these travel opportunities.

"We are in the process of becoming an official team, and with each practice we see more and more people joining." said Cundiff.

As the team grows, the players can look forward to building a social bond reinforced by the hard work they put in each week.

"There is no other sport like rugby, with the full contact and the brotherhood," said Tech. Sgt. Samuel Howard, 31st Maintenance Squadron nondestructive inspection assistant NCO in charge. "What you bring to the field is what you leave on it."

Team members challenge themselves to achieve top physical performance while building teamwork skills. According to Cundiff, rugby touches on many of the pillars of the RUfit framework because it requires the Airmen to develop mental, physical and social skills.

"We hope to see this team snowball enough to play seven on seven matches in the spring and have large matches in the fall," said Howard. "There is a chance to start something great here, to compete and maybe even travel to other countries."

The players continue with jaw-jarring tackles as they strengthen their brotherhood and look to a bright future of representing Aviano Air Base, Italy.

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