Airmen join Kyrgyz hosts for Sports Day
By Master Sgt. Charles M. Wade , 376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 07, 2009
MANAS AIR BASE, Kyrgyzstan -- With the sound of aircraft engines in the distance and cargo and buses of personnel passing every so often, a group of Manas Air Base Airmen and Kyrgyz employees from the Manas International Airport took a break from the hectic mission for a friendly sports day competition, April 30.
Approximately 100 participants competed for nearly five hours in six events, including soccer, weightlifting, tug of war, volleyball, pull ups and a relay race. The participants included Airmen and U.S. contractors, MIA and Kyrgyz Air Navigation employees, and Kyrgyz representatives from immigrations and customs.
"This is a great way for everyone in our airport community to come together, meet one another and take part in friendly sports competitions," said Col. Kenneth Andersen, 376th Expeditionary Mission Support Group commander. "Events like this help bring neighbors like us closer together."
Manas Air Base is located on MIA property adjacent to the passenger terminal and parking ramps. Both the International Airport and base share the same runway, aircraft parking ramps and taxiways, and air traffic control tower. For the past seven years, base personnel have cooperated closely with MIA and KAN officials on a variety of daily issues, including flight scheduling and planning, airfield security, and infrastructure improvements and maintenance.
The sports event kicked off with opening comments from Col. Christopher Bence, 376th Air Expeditionary Wing commander, and Baktybek Sydykov, MIA president.
"Today's event is dedicated to the memory of Kulmuhammed Achekeyev, who was the airport vice president before he passed away," said Mr. Sydykov. "This is only the second time we've held sports day and I wish everyone to have a good time, build friendships and win."
According to organizers of the event, the goal was to have a good time and in doing so, strengthen the already solid relationships between MIA, KAN, and Manas Air Base.
"I saw this as a great opportunity to get together with our Kyrgyz neighbors at MIA and KAN," said Capt. Steven Mankins, event organizer and the director of operations for the Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron. "It gave us an opportunity to come out and show good sportsmanship and build bonds and friendships through sports."
"This event helps people to just bridge our differences and improve relations with one another. People participating in this competition will better understand one other and it can help us resolve any problems we may have easier," said Asein Torogelgiev, MIA Physical Training Instructor.
Throughout the day, crowds of spectators and other team players gathered around each event to show their support and enthusiasm by chanting and cheering one another on.
"It's a great time for us to come together as a team and it's in our nature as humans to compete," said Senior Airman Kalvan Palmer, a utility crew leader deployed to the 376th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron. "I had a great time competing in the weightlifting event. The Kyrgyz's are very competitive in the weightlifting and tug of war, and they have great technique," added the Airman who is an Air National Guardsman deployed from the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg, W. Va.
The event wrapped up in the early afternoon with winners for each event receiving certificates and a cash prize. However, the ultimate prize for all who participated in the event was a lasting relationship and friendship.
"No matter if you win or lose, just have a good time," said Airman Palmer.