"Crouch! - Touch! - Pause! - ENGAGE!"
The three forwards [linemen] [henceforth I'll translate Rugby terms into American Football terms for my American readers] in each side of the scrum slammed together as I rolled the ball between them and the contest began for possession, feet chopping at the ground to gain a hold on the powdery dust and rocks that were reluctant to cooperate. The ball came out on my side; I picked it up and pitched it with a twist of the wrist to Sergeant 'Doc' Lomelli, who charged for the tryline [endzone]. He passed the ball at the last second before he could be tackled by Captain Erb, an Air Force A-10 pilot whose physically descriptive call-sign was 'Tank' (and had once played college Football).
|Me throwing the ball into a line-out.|
"F***!" both sides seemed to chant in unison.
Twenty years after leaving the country, the USSR had struck another blow at western forces with its reckless mine-laying.
This was Rugby in Afghanistan.
|Early members of the Parwan Rifles RFC,|
making our mean faces. Typical playing conditions.
We had servicemen and women from every branch of service attached to Current Ops for the deployment with marines, sailors, and airmen in addition to our soldiers. Many were also from allied nations; Britain, France, New Zealand and Poland being most prominent. Most of the key personnel on my team in Current Ops were combat arms, intentionally placed in Current Ops as we best understood the needs of soldiers in the fight, having been there ourselves. However, we would rather be in the fight, and all had more aggressive, action-oriented personalities. It ate at us like heartburn to monitor our brothers in arms fighting and dying in the mountains of east Afghanistan, while we worked in the relative comfort and safety of the operations center.
We needed a way to get some of that aggressive energy out, and we found exactly what was needed one day when Major Miles of the US Marine Corps and I were talking about Rugby. I had never played but had always had an interest, and he had not played since college, but we realized that Rugby was the perfect way to get some of our guys out of the Joint Operations Center and into some form of action again. Sports have always had a strong place in warrior culture, often seen in popular depictions of British soldiers playing soccer and Rugby in rest areas during WWI, or "Yank" soldiers playing baseball in foreign fields during WWII. Rugby was physical enough to help burn that excess aggressive energy; it was true team sport that would develop cohesion and pride; and it required minimal equipment.
|The Parwan Rifles RFC logo, with|
the outline of Parwan province in the
background, and an Irish wolfhound,
a fearless dog that protects its people
We decided to form a Rugby club, using the same naming convention used by Britain for its colonial regiments in the 19th century. This used the Afghani province that we were based in, combined with the symbol of the infantry, the branch the majority of our initial players claimed.
On that day, the Parwan Rifles Rugby Football Club was born.
(To be continued.)