News: Softball forges friendships during BTH-Panama
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Walter Van Ochten
COLON, Panama - The service members of Task Force –Panama will play a series of softball games against Panamanians of all ages from mid April to late June.
Games will be held every two weeks in two different Panamanian cities, Achiote and Escobal, where new constructions and improvements of medical clinics and schools are underway. The first games were held two weeks ago and will continue until the engineering projects for Beyond the Horizon-Panama 2013 are finished in late June.
Capt. Mayoor Sharma serves on the duration staff of Task Force-Panama and hails from Houston, Texas. He coordinated with local leaders in the villages to start and promote the games.
“The ballgames were set up to promote the partnership between the service members and the Panamanians in the villages and towns where we are doing the humanitarian missions,” said Sharma.
According to Sharma, the brainchild of the softball games was Enrique Chumbo, a local Achiote community leader who not only coordinated the games, but also helped promote them to residents of the communities.
“First thing is we brought people to see the games,” said Chumbo. “We want the youth to work and play with people from other countries in a positive way.”“This will also help children develop their confidence in the game of baseball.”
Chumbo is enthusiastic about the service members building a new medical clinic as well as a new bathroom for the school in this community.
“Everything is positive,” said Chumbo. “First off, they are doing good things for our community, second, we are trying to make them feel like part of our family, and that is why we are having this event here.”.
Part of building friendships, a family, a community or partnership is making shared memories though common experiences.
“One of the best experiences we had was when the Achiote school got the whole crew together to take a picture,” said Capt. Michael Coyle, company commander of 284th Engineer Company, 961st Engineer Battalion, 420th Engineer Brigade, an Army Reserve unit out of Seagoville, Texas. “They were able to print out the picture of all the students and service members that worked the construction there.”.
Coyle went on to say that the service members were expecting a baseball game.
“The game turned out to be a fast pitch softball game, so they’re a little more experienced at that then my troops,” said Coyle.
Although the service members were unable to keep up with the Panamanians in the softball game, Coyle stated the score does not measure the success of the event.
“The whole town came out. They brought vendors and handed out coconuts for the service members to drink the coconut water,” said Coyle. “The service members definitely appreciated it, and I think the villagers appreciated our willingness [to participate] as well. It’s definitely one of my most endearing memories.”
Capt. Joseph Effiong, chaplain with 961st Engineering Battalion, spent the morning before the softball game passing out cookies to the villagers.
“There could not be a better way to forge that union of friendship than by what we are doing,” said Effiong. “You saw not only the school children coming out, but also the mothers, fathers and villagers. You saw the unity and the partnership; it was great. I could not see a better way to do it.”