Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!
More than one hundred service members from the U.S., United Arab Emirates, and several coalition nations participated in the Friendship Games Feb. 6, 2019, at Al Dhafra Air Base.
This semi-annual event used games to promote partnerships between the different countries.
"This is the one time of year where we all get together and participate in sports," said Anthony Dalton, 380th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron fitness director. "We try to pick universal sports that everyone wants to compete in."
The 380th EFSS worked with their coalition forces counterparts to coordinate and organize the games. It kicked off with a 4k run and included competitive events like basketball, soccer, a relay race and tug-of-war matches.
"It's called the Friendship Games but people come out here and they want to win, they're very competitive," Dalton said. "Whether they're first, second or third, they're happy to participate in an event and represent their country."
The U.S. team steals the ball during the basketball portion of the Friendship Games Feb. 6, 2019, at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Darnell T. Cannady)
These games allow service members to interact with and get to know each other in a universally-accepted environment.
"I believe these games are very important because it builds camaraderie between the countries and helps bridge the gap by getting to know one another on a personal level," said Staff Sgt. William Hazelwood, 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron launch and recovery supervisor and Friendship Games participant. "Participating in the games with members from other countries was very exciting. Getting fellowship with other members, exchanging conversations and competing were the highlight of the games for me."
Regardless of who won or lost, by building relationships through the Friendship Games at Al Dahfra AB was the true winner.
"When we come out here all together, we're truly one force," Dalton added. "Everyone talks with each other, everybody competes, so I just like the camaraderie that these events bring. I don't think I've seen anything like that during my time working for the Air Force where all the countries come together and participate in sports."