Marines scrum with JSDF members, enhance ties
CAMP NAHA, OKINAWA, Japan -- Calmness envelops the field as the two teams stare across at each other, each group of teammates standing side-by-side with arms wrapped around each other. Suddenly, the two teams lean forward and lock themselves together, their heads interwoven like the teeth of a zipper – the scrum begins.
When the Japan Self-Defense Force Naha Rugby Football Club and the Camp Hansen Kaiju played March 9 and 29, the days were about more than just a game.
“Playing the JSDF in a rugby match is a great way to build closer ties,” said U.S. Marine Capt. Curt Williamson, a co-captain of the Camp Hansen Kaiju and Marine Air-Ground Task Force intelligence officer with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “Sports bring people together and give us a chance to get to know one another – foster friendship. Rugby in particular grows great relationships, and we’re looking forward to continuing to build a solid relationship with the Naha RFC.”
On March 9, the games included the Torii Station Beach Boys playing back-to-back games against Naha RFC and Camp Hansen Kaiju. The final game was Naha RFC versus Camp Hansen Kaiju.
“It was an intense game,” said U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Folauhola Tupouata, a player with the Camp Hansen Kaiju and a maintenance management specialist with Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III MEF. “The highlight of the day was playing against the (Naha RFC); those guys can hit.”
Naha RFC was invited to the sports complex on Camp Hansen March 29 for a friendly re-match.
Even though the sport is physical and aggressive in nature, rugby focuses on sportsmanship, according to Williamson.
“Rugby culture, despite all the shouting and hitting on the pitch, advocates a ‘leave it on the field’ approach,” said Williamson. “At the amateur level, it’s common for the two teams to (spend time together) afterward, no matter how rough and heated the match might have been. I don't think any other sport, especially a full-contact sport, can claim the same caliber of sportsmanship and team spirit.”
Through the wind and harsh conditions, each team smiled and ended March 9 with a group photograph of all three teams. After the game between Naha RFC and Kaiju, the captains agreed the teams should meet again.
“The Marines are great competitors,” said Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Petty Officer 3rd Class Takao Nakajima, the captain of the Naha RFC. “Their strength and tactics challenged us and we learned many things from them. It was a great opportunity and pleasure to be able to play against them, and I look forward to our next meeting.”