A soldier catches the game-winning touchdown in an Army vs. Air Force flag football game. A new sports program will pit battalion against battalion for a national championship. (Shandi Dix / Army)
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Just in time for National Sports and Fitness Month, the Army is rolling out a new soldier athletics program this May.
Unlike the Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs that have long been available to soldiers, civilians and family members, this new program is open only to soldiers, in order to cull the service’s best athletes for inter-unit competitions.
Sound interesting? Here’s what you need to know:
It’s one team per battalion
The program is designed to roll out in three phases. Once battalion teams are assembled, they will compete semi-annually for garrison supremacy.
Next, garrison champions will compete against other installations in their region, and finally, the winners will head to the Chief of Staff of the Army Sports Championships.
Post command will execute individual programs through Army Installation Management Command.
There are six sports to choose from
The sports will rotate on a seasonal schedule, with men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball and soccer in the spring, then men’s and women’s softball, flag football and cross country in the fall.
The top men’s and women’s teams in each battalion will advance to Region Invitation Championships. The top two men’s and women’s teams from the regional competitions will advance to the CSA Sports Championship.
The program will also have combatives competitions, where teams consisting of one man and one woman will complete for the garrison championship, then head directly to the CSA championship.
Guardsmen and reservists can participate
Though the teams are at the battalion level, IMCOM spokesman Steve Moon told Army Times that National Guard and Reserve soldiers are eligible to compete with their battalions. Smaller units can combine in order to form a battalionwide team.
Yes, there is funding
Despite budget cuts, there is some money available for the program. Senior commanders will use operation and management funds to run it, Moon said. However, this inaugural year will be limited to installation competitions, as there isn’t enough money to organize the planned regional and national competitions.
It hasn’t been determined when phases two and three will roll out.
A way to stay ready
The program is part of the Army’s larger effort to emphasize overall soldier wellness.
The program falls in line with the Defense Department’s Healthy Base Initiative and Operation Live Well, militarywide efforts to promote preventative care and healthy life choices. “The Army Sports Program embodies key elements of comprehensive soldier fitness — building physical fitness, strengthening resilience, fostering teamwork and camaraderie,” according to the operations order, “while ultimately offering soldiers positive activity choices during discretionary times, thereby reducing soldier opportunities to engage in high-risk opportunities.”
The operations order was signed by IMCOM commander Lt. Gen. Mike Ferriter.
The program is a good option for commanders to consider when developing this year’s Ready and Resilient plans, Moon said.