JAKARTA, Indonesia – Sailors assigned to the forward deployed Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63) played a few friendly games of soccer and volleyball with Indonesian Sailors and Marines on the Yonmarhanlan Marine Base, Oct. 10.
The games were held as a form of friendly competition aimed at helping the forces interact where language and cultural barriers would not be as much of a factor and would give the Sailors of both countries an opportunity to learn about each other’s customs.
“I think that a lot of people get their ideas of other cultures from secondary sources,” said Sonar Technician (Surface) 3rd Class Ashley Jerousek. “If they can see the truth in person, then it gives them a better perspective.”
Both teams played with everything they had despite temperatures exceeding 90 F with high humidity.
A few of the locals gathered on the sidelines during the games, asking the players questions about where they are from, and why they are playing soccer and volleyball today with the Indonesian forces.
“I love soccer and I have been playing all my life,” said Senior Chief Gas Turbine Systems Technician Florizel O’Hara, who grew up in Jamaica playing soccer. “It’s always a good opportunity to show other countries and cultures what we are made of. You look at our team, and we are pretty well represented not just nation wide, but world wide.”
Many of Cowpens’ Sailors realized the potential impact of a simple game of soccer or volleyball. For some, the realization came in the form of hindsight and experience.
“I remember last year we came across a fishing boat in distress off the coast of Indonesia,” said Ensign Alex Melnick, one of the core organizers of the games. “Initially they were very reluctant to accept our help. Hopefully because of this experience we will have a better understanding between us.”
The Indonesian Sailors and Marines also prepared some traditional foods to share with Cowpens’ Sailors during the games.
In the end, the Indonesian Sailors and Marines won both the soccer and volleyball games, but keeping score was not as important as the idea that these games could be the beginning of a greater friendship.
“We are all operating in the same waters,” said O’Hara. “I think that as small as this game was, it could be something that could bridge the gap between our forces in the future.”
Cowpens is forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan and is underway in the 7th Fleet area of operations in company with the USS George Washington Strike Group.
Operating in the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean, the U.S. 7th Fleet is the largest of the forward deployed U.S. Fleets, covering 48 million square miles, with approximately 60-70 ships, 200-300 aircraft, and 40,000 Sailors and Marines assigned at any time.