NEWS | Aug. 27, 2018

U.S. Soldiers, Kuwaiti athletes team-up for Special Olympics

By Staff Sgt. Matthew Keeler Task Force Spartan

Soldiers and special needs athletes joined together to play basketball, soccer, table tennis, tug-of-war, and foosball, as part of a Special Olympics event at Aridiyah Youth Center, Kuwait on Aug. 14, 2018.

“This is a very special day,” said Brig. Gen. Mark McCormack, deputy division commander – support for the 28th Infantry Division, Task Force Spartan. “This is another opportunity for the members of the 28th Infantry Division to continue to share in the partnership that we have established with our friends here in Kuwait – particularly our friends here at the Special Olympics.”

The Special Olympics event was the latest in a continuing partnership between Soldiers from Task Force Spartan and the local Kuwaiti community. Several weeks ago, Soldiers from Task Force Spartan also took part in Kuwait’s celebration of the international 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics.

“Today, we are coming together for the love of sports and the love of our two countries,” said Maj. Amanda Harrah, deputy civil affairs officer for the 28th ID. “We are going to participate together in basketball, in soccer, in table tennis, in foosball, and we are here to make friends. We are here to show our care and support to our Kuwaiti friends.”

Taking part in events with the disabled sports community supports the Task Force Spartan goal of developing the relationship between Soldiers and the community that doesn’t often get a chance to meet those service members, said Harrah.

“We like to look at what is important to Kuwait. Right now, we see that the importance is in the disabled community,” Harrah said. “We would like to find the abilities between both the disabled communities and the Army to find out how we can partner and help each other out. Because we have a lot to offer to one and another.”

Supporting community events like this one continues the friendship the U.S. military and Kuwaiti community have fostered for decades, McCormack said.

“This is just another opportunity for us to continue to build upon that friendship and actually meet new friends as well. So we can continue to tell our families back home how great it is over here and actually working within the Kuwaiti culture as well,” said McCormack.

The 28th ID is a unit of the Pennsylvania National Guard and most of the Soldiers serving in the Middle East are citizen-soldiers; they perform service to their country part-time while juggling full-time jobs, school and family. Participating in these events help connect these citizen-Soldiers to the communities that they miss back home, said Harrah.

“If the community were to ask us to participate in an event, and we are able to do so, we certainly like to make ourselves available to participate,” said Harrah. “We have also visited children in the hospital through the Kuwait Association for the Care of Children in Hospital. We also participated with Training Gate International and we participated with disabled children’s sports clubs.”

The two teams, a combination of Soldiers and players, were joined through sports and a great cause, one that Harrah is proud of.

“We like to look at what is important to Kuwait and what is important to the Army,” said Harrah. “We like to take those two objectives and put them together. How can we work together as partners? How can we combine those friendships and work together so that we are in the boat and rowing together?”