LAGHMAN PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – The day began at 8:00 a.m., Dec. 8 with a staff meeting and ended at 4 a.m. the next morning with heartbreak.
At kickoff of the 2012 Army-Navy football game, 12:30 a.m. in Afghanistan, several officers from 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division and 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, had assembled in the dining facility at Forward Operating Base Gamberi to watch their alma mater play in one of the most storied rivalries in college sports.
Excitement was in the air. The Commander in Chief’s Trophy was on the line. Ten years of loss was too much. This year Army would win. Everyone believed it. It was the Army Black Knights quarterback Trent Steelman’s last year, his last opportunity to end the 10-game losing streak.
By 3:00 a.m., most of the crowd had left the DFAC. All that remained was four die-hard academy graduates and five local national workers placing Christmas decorations on the walls and on the tables.
The officers – U.S. Army Maj. Tim Clauss, an intelligence officer with 4th BCT, 1st Cav. Div., and U.S. Army Maj. Morgan Reese , the brigade engineer with 4th BCT, 1st Cav. Div, both Class of 1999; Capt. Cullen McPeak, an advisor with the 201st Afghan National Army Corps, Class of 2007, and Capt. Nicholas Youngerman, an engineering officer with 4th BCT, 1st Cav. Div. and Class of 2009 – had all endured a decade of losses to Navy.
They just knew that this would be the year. McPeak is from West Point, NY. He has seen Army wins before, but not since well before he enrolled in the academy. Youngerman, a native of Austin, Texas, also has not seen an Army win over Navy since he first marched on the “Plain” during Reception Day at the academy. Clauss, from San Antonio, and Reese, from Woodbridge, Va., have been more fortunate. The Black Knights won twice while they were students, then again two and a half years after they graduated. None since then.
The environment was familiar to all of them; all four officers have watched the Army-Navy game from either Iraq or Afghanistan prior to this late-night viewing.
As the group sat on one side of a table littered with empty water bottles, half empty cans of A&W Root Beer and Coke Zero, plates of half-eaten cookies, Goldfish crackers and a box of Cheez-Its, DFAC workers maneuvered around them without a clue of the significance of the images being projected on the giant screen.
The atmosphere in the DFAC was light for the first three quarters of the game. Intense, but jovial. The score was tied, and then the Army pulled ahead.
The intensity increased.
The fourth quarter was an emotional roller coaster for the assembled four. Each team had two possessions, and with each one the exhausted group of old grads’ cheers and shouts got louder.
Until the fumble.
There was one final cry of disbelief in the DFAC, then silence. The four officers didn’t say anything else. They watched the replay a couple of times then, one-by-one, they left the building, stunned and silent, to await next year’s Army-Navy game.
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This work, Black Knight supporters rally at FOB Gamberi, by MAJ Steven Miller, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.