By Maj. Jeanette Kingsley
Florida National Guard Civil Operations Program
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - It is the dream of every professional soccer player to don the colors of their national team during the sport's quadrennial event at the FIFA World Cup. It is without a question that this is the world’s most widely viewed sporting event.
For Capt. Roye Locklear of the Florida Army National Guard, that dream was something he vigorously pursued for a period of his life.
As a former professional player during the middle to late years of the 1990s, he worked diligently hoping to one day get a shot at making the U.S. National Team.
However, that opportunity never came.
His playing career and all the aspirations associated with it came to a screeching halt after a devastating knee injury that ended his playing career.
On the other hand, as the proverbial saying goes, “when one door closes, another one opens.”
Locklear did finally make it to a World Cup, just not as a player.
He recently served on the coaching staff for the United States Armed Forces team that competed in the first ever Military World Cup.
The U.S. Armed Forces Men’s Soccer Team recently returned from competing in this first ever event, also called the World Football Trophy.
Sixteen nations were invited by The International Military Sports Council (CISM) to compete in this prestigious tournament, held in Baku, Azerbaijan, July 1-15, 2013. The team representing the United States was comprised of members from all branches of the services, to include the Coast Guard.
Founded in 1948, CISM is one of the largest multidisciplinary organizations in the world. Headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, it organizes various sporting events for the armed forces of more than 133 member countries. This makes it the world’s largest military organization and the second largest sporting organization next to the International Olympic Committee.
The 2013 World Football Trophy is the first of its kind and the goal is to have this event every four years mirroring the ever-popular FIFA World Cup. The team representing the United States was drawn into Group “C” along with The Ivory Coast, Oman and Germany.
Capt. Locklear, of the Florida National Guard’s Counterdrug Program, as well as the Recruiting & Retention Battalion, was chosen to serve as the Assistant Coach of this team.
Locklear, who has served as the Head Coach for The United States Army Men’s Soccer team for the past four years, was selected for the position as a result of his Army team’s second place finish in the 2012 Armed Forces tournament.
The coaching staff was comprised of the following individuals: Lt. Col. Derrick Weyand, head coach, United States Air Force; Chief Warrant Officer Kevin Pierre, goal keeper coach, United States Marine Corps; and Cmdr. Stephen Wilson, chief of mission, United States Navy.
The planning for this tournament began back in October 2012. Each respective service coach was authorized to invite ten players from their service to compete for spots on the final roster.
For Locklear it was a challenging process to determine which ten Army players to invite.
“There are many quality players within the ranks of the Army, to include both active duty and the Reserve component,” Locklear said. “With soldiers literally stationed all over the world, it is naturally difficult for me to see every player and assess their playing ability. However, over the years I have established a network of resources and personnel whose opinion I value when it comes to player assessment. Not to mention this year, we had over 150 soldiers apply, so there were a lot of applications to review.”
Training camp for the Armed Forces Team was hosted by the U.S. Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton, Calif., June 6-29.
The coaching staff designed a rigorous training scheduled which included three daily training sessions and scrimmage games against some of the best competition Southern California had to offer.
The team had the unique opportunity to scrimmage against U-18 teams from both the LA Galaxy and Chivas USA, both members of Major League Soccer (MLS) and was successful in both matches.
“For our players to line-up against the U-18’s from the Galaxy after being in camp for only two days and to pull off a victory, was something special,” said Locklear. “MLS Academy players are often times together for years at a time, which aides in building team cohesion that enable a team to function as one unit. The coaching staff was quite pleased after this performance and we knew we had a solid group of players to begin to build from.”
Additional matches were set up with the LA Misioneros and the Southern California Seahorses both of the Premier Development League (PDL), the San Diego Nomads, FC Cal, Bethesda University and several other local teams. Team USA compiled an 8-1-1 record against all competitors during training camp.
While in California, the team also took a little time away from training to experience some outstanding opportunities the local area had to offer.
The team was given a tour of the Naval Vessel USS Ronald Reagan, as well as a behind-the-scenes tour of Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, where Navy SEAL hopefuls receive their initial training.
In addition, the team was also invited to a closed-door training session of the LA Galaxy of MLS.
See link: http://www.lagalaxy.com/news/2013/06/la-galaxy-welcome-us-military-soccer-team-training-ahead-next-month%E2%80%99s-world-military-cu
After a long and grueling training camp, which included more than 60 training sessions to go along with all of the scrimmage matches, the coaching staff faced the difficult decision of selecting the final 18 players that would represent Team USA.
“This is the one part of the job that coaches do not enjoy”, said Locklear. “All of these players have been training and preparing for this for the better part of the last six months and to tell a service member they are not going to be a part of the team is tough. They are all outstanding players, many of them are the best that their respective service has to offer, but we can only take eighteen.”
The final roster consisted of nine Air Force players, two Marines, three Navy, one Coast Guard and three Army players.
Opening ceremonies for the tournament were held on July 2. Festivities included an Olympic-style march into the stadium as all teams participating were required to wear their military dress uniforms.
Several speeches were given to signify the opening of the tournament, most notably by the President of CISM and the Defense Minister of the Azerbaijan military. In addition, the opening ceremony included traditional songs and dancing that showcased the culture of the host country.
Team USA opened group play with a hard fight, but 2-0 defeat to The Ivory Coast on July 3.
“They were a quality team, possessing lots of speed and technical ability,” said Locklear. “I think their speed of play really caught us by surprise and we spent the entire game on our heels and just could not recover.”
Because many foreign nations still require mandatory military service from all male citizens, many young professional soccer players find themselves on the military soccer team when it comes time for them to complete their obligatory service to their country.
This was the case with Team USA’s second match against Oman on July 6, which was the same team that was one win away from qualifying for next summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
However, Team USA took it as a challenge and reminded their players that there would be only a few times in their lives when they would get to line up against the actual national team from another country.
“We designed a game plan that caught them by surprise and after 82 minutes the match was all tied at 2-2,” said Locklear.
However, soccer is a game played over 90 minutes and Oman was able to score twice in the final 8 minutes to secure a 4-2 victory.
“As a staff, we could not have been prouder of the effort that our boys put out against Oman. They fought the entire match, but we lost our mental focus in the final 8 minutes. It was a wonderful match to watch as a coach and it will go down as one of my cherished memories,” Locklear said.
The third and final match was against Germany on July 8.
From the start, the team dominated the match; it came away with an easy 4-1 victory.
The star of the match was Sgt. Christopher Krueger, who is stationed at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers of Europe (SHAPE) in Belgium.
“Sgt .Krueger was in the zone tonight,” said Locklear. “He scored a hat-trick and was creating havoc for the German defense. They had no answer for him tonight. Our players deserved to go out with a win after all of the hard work they had put in up to this point.”
Krueger, who was a member of the 2011 All Army Team expressed his thoughts on the entire experience, “I thought the camp was a terrific experience and enjoyed every minute of it. As for the tournament … Wow! It was a once in a lifetime experience! It was an awesome feeling playing in a stadium against players of that caliber.”
First Lt. Andrew Hyres was another of the Army players selected to the final roster of 18.
He is a Logistics officer stationed at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. Hyres is no stranger to this level of competition. A two-time All Army selection, he was also a member of the CISM team that traveled to Brazil in 2010 to compete in a regional competition.
Commenting on his experience in the World Football Trophy, “It was a tremendous experience and honor to play alongside the best soccer players in the U.S. armed forces. The competition was fierce in Baku, notably in our group. We played with a lot of heart and we definitely earned respect from the other countries.”
Hyres played college soccer at Pacific Lutheran University in Washington.
The third and final Army player to make the final roster was Spc. Raul Quinones, a Motor Transport Operator stationed at Red Cloud, Korea, summed up the entire experience, “Every session during the training camp was very intense. It demanded physical and maximum mental strength. Luckily, I made it until the end and got selected for the final roster but it was not easy. Every single player in camp was very talented which made me feel like I needed to push myself a lot more everyday at every session.”
As for his thoughts on the tournament, Quinones said the following, “The tournament was an awesome experience for me, no matter what the outcome was. Just being there and knowing that each one of us whether on the field or on the bench, gave our all to the team for our country, was a successful thing. I am proud of my teammates and myself for never giving up and always going forward.”
Quinones, who played collegiately, was a member of the 2012 All Army Team and was selected to the All Tournament Team.
As a young soccer player growing up, competing collegiately and in the professional ranks, Locklear always dreamed of representing his nation in the World Cup.
“As a young player my dream was to represent the U.S. National Team in the World Cup at the professional level, to hear the national anthem playing prior to the start of the match, to feel that sense of nationalistic pride. I never got to experience that as a player professionally. However, for me this experience of coaching my country’s service members in the Military World Cup is a pretty close second and ranks right up there. It was something I’ll remember for a lifetime and the experiences and friendships that were made throughout will be long-lasting,” Locklear said.
The tournament ended July 15 with Iraq winning the tournament by a 3-2 margin over Oman. The Ivory Coast took third place. So out of Group C, in which the United States was placed, came the tournament’s runner up as well as the third place finisher.
“To know that the tournament’s runner up, as well as the third place finisher came from our group, gave the team some perspective realizing we competed in a competitive group,” Locklear said.
For Locklear, when one soccer venture ends, another one is just around the corner. He serves as the Head Coach of the Boys Soccer program at Bishop Kenny High School in Jacksonville.
“Soccer has taught me many life lessons and provided me some unique opportunities. Coaching allows me to give some of that back to the next generation of players. Of course I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the fact that my wife and daughters are extremely supportive of my soccer endeavors. Without their support none of this would be possible," Locklear said. “Finally, I would like to express my sincere appreciation for the senior leadership within the Florida National Guard’s Counterdug Program, specifically Maj. Jeanette Kingsley and also to Maj. Tali Hillsgrove of the Officer Strength Management section, within the Florida Recruiting & Retention Battalion. Without their approval and willingness to authorize me to take part in this event, none of this would have been possible. Their support and encouragement was comforting throughout the entire process."