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'Rough Riders' Kick Off Partnership in Iraq

Army Sgt. 1st Class Damian Steptore, Special to American Forces Press Service

Army Sgt. Freddy Valdez attempts to reach a soccer ball before an Iraqi soldier can kick the ball away during a soccer match at Contingency Operations Base Adder in southern Iraq, Oct. 23, 2008. U.S. Army photo by Maj. Jesse Henderson


As the sun began to set on the base’s soccer complex Oct. 23, 15 U.S. soldiers warmed up for a big game here.

The “Rough Rider” soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division’s 27th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, were set to play the Motorized Transportation Regiment of the 10th Iraqi Army Division in a partnership-building soccer contest.

“We got players from all over the world out here,” said Army Spc. Larry Walker, a petroleum specialist assigned to 27th BSB. “Plus, I’m a part-time soccer coach back home, so it’s all good.”

Walker, from Sacramento, Calif., was easily recognizable during this contest, as his large frame towered over the smaller Iraqi soldiers, but his size and coaching experience didn’t help his team this day.

The Iraqi MTR dominated the Rough Rider soldiers by a score of 5-1, but both teams came out as winners.

“They came out here ready to play, but we’ll get ’em next time,” Walker said as the sweat rolled off his shiny, bald head.

The interaction and camaraderie the soldiers shared during the game was the result of planning that began weeks before the match.

“We challenged these guys to a soccer match to do something with them on a social level,” said Army Capt. Charles Montgomery, a Houston, Miss., native and commander of 27th BSB’s Company C. “We started practicing about 45 days ago, and we brought them here, and I think we did pretty well.”

Although the units were on opposing teams during the soccer match, the Iraqi and American soldiers usually work together while transporting essential goods and supplies to remote operating bases within the 4th brigade’s area of operations.

“We really appreciate this opportunity,” said Col. Ali Hanno, commander of the Iraqi regiment. “It means we have a good communications between our units, and friendship.”

The units plan to have monthly soccer matches to continue building their partnership. Army Capt. Shawn Robertson attempts to block a soccer ball during a match with Iraqi soldiers at Contingency Operations Base Adder in southern Iraq, Oct. 23, 2008. U.S. Army photo by Maj. Jesse Henderson

(Army Sgt. 1st Class Damian Steptore serves in the 1st Cavalry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs office.)

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