News: Combat respite: Deployed Marines build camaraderie during moonlight games
Story by Cpl. Paul Peterson
FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHIR GHAZI, Afghanistan - Somewhere in the darkness they found a football, a Frisbee and a hidden reserve of energy. After nearly 20 hours of continuous operations, the servicemembers simply embraced a little bit of spontaneity and started to play.
“It’s just a matter of a Marine picking up a football and throwing it to somebody,” said Sgt. Nicholas Adcock, a Raleigh, N.C., native, and squad leader with 2nd Platoon, Transportation Support Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 2 “The next thing you know, the entire platoon is out there.”
The unit found that certain freedom of spirit particular to the dual winds of boredom and exhaustion. No one established any rules or drew lines in the powder-fine sand that permeates the base here.
They just turned on their truck lights and illuminated a makeshift field in the forward operating base’s motor pool. The Marines jockeyed and jeered with each other, kicking up plumes of sand as a gallery of their peers laughed from the sidelines.
“We got there late, a lot later than we thought, and instead of going to sleep everybody’s ready to play,” said Adcock, who was one of the first Marines to take to the field. “It’s something I’m proud of in my platoon … We know our ranks. We know our jobs. We know our chain of command. But at the same time we know how to have fun.”
Prolonged missions take a significant toll on the Marines’ bodies, admitted Adcock. The cramped quarters and strain wear out their legs and stretch the nerves.
“Downtime is a good thing for all Marines of any level,” he said. “We get out and realize our chain of command is right there with us. They’re doing the same things we’re doing.”
It was only a few hours of shenanigans, but it went a long way to cushion a day of stress. The platoon learned their stay in the field was extended by multiple days only hours before the football and Frisbee started to fly.
For a little more than an hour they didn’t have to care.
“[It’s] giving them an opportunity to decompress,” said 1st Lt. Andrew Lark, a Chuluota, Fla., native and 2nd Platoon’s commander. “Another part of being a platoon commander is ensuring morale is good.”
Lark said he makes a point to ask his Marines how they’re doing throughout the day. The Marines know each other well, and they can see when something is bothering a member of the group.
“They’ll just talk to each other and essentially hang out, as basic as that sounds,” said Lark. “You can’t force camaraderie. It’s just one of those things.”
Lark stayed out of the playful fray at FOB Shir Ghazi, preferring to instigate from the sidelines. He did eventually insist upon a final showdown so the game could end and their rest period begin.
“As key leaders, we stay frustrated because that’s our job,” he joked. “It’s about making sure the Marines don’t feel the same way. All the stress and burden to make things happen should be on us. It does not necessarily have to be on them … They understand that once we get outside the wire it’s game time.”