Air Force Reserves
ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- Male and female volleyball teams representing air forces from six nations took part in NATO's 2012 Allied Air Component Ramstein Volleyball Championship Tournament at RAF Lakenheath March 26 to 28.
The tournament, sponsored by the Headquarters Allied Air Command Ramstein Inter-Nation Sports Board, has been running for more than four decades and involves countries from all around Europe.
"The aim of the sports board and this tournament is to reinforce the mutual respect and goodwill that exists between these NATO nations in an atmosphere of friendly competition," said Col. Ricky Ricarte, HQ AAC Ramstein Inter-Nation Sports Board executive chairman.
Participants came from the U.K., the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Poland and the U.S. and were impressed with the level of service and accommodations provided to them during the tournament.
"We want to thank RAF Lakenheath for hosting this event," said Sergeant Simon Bennett, Royal Air Force volleyball player. "The services provided to us here have been brilliant. My favorite is the food at the mess hall, lodging is excellent and the fitness center is top notch."
The tournament brought spectators to the event who were surprised by the level of athleticism and competition. It also brought a new interest to the sport of volleyball.
"This is actually my first volleyball match that I've seen like this," said Staff Sgt. Leo Starks, 48th Communications Squadron focal point technician. "The amount of talent here is incredible. I'm definitely going to get more involved in volleyball."
The level of competition even amazed members of the HQ AAC Inter-Nation Sports Board who have seen these events before.
"All I have to say is wow," said Ricarte. "Every championship event I go to, the level of competition just seems to rise each time. It was incredible seeing both male and female teams out here supporting and cheering for each other."
Players from each team came from a wide variety of backgrounds and have gone through rigorous training to prepare for the tournament.
"Players train year round with their various varsity teams and a few weeks prior to the tournament, each country has a trial camp to pick their best players for the event," said John Enterman, 48th Force Support Squadron fitness center director. "The players are all highly skilled; some have played for their countries' Olympic teams and others have played professionally. Most are at Division I college level skill."
According to Enterman the whole tournament was a huge success and couldn't have been possible without the help from many of the squadrons on base, volunteers, language interpreter liaisons and great support from U.S. Air Forces Europe. But, it was the interaction between athletes that he thought was the most successful part of the event.
"Each player takes back a sense of pride for competing for their country, as well as many new friendships from meeting with other countries' players," said Mr. Enterman. "Many of the players will cross paths again in future deployments, other competitions, but more importantly will have these friendships and memories they made for the rest of their lives."