UK weekly edition, Wednesday, July 18, 2007


With the inevitable tightening of security at American overseas military bases in the past six years, separation between lives inside and outside the fence can be too easy at times.

Sometimes it takes an event to bring locals and U.S. personnel together to realize that everyone isn’t all that different.

That was part of the reasoning behind the second annual Special Sports Day at RAF Alconbury on Friday. The legions of screaming kids running around played a part as well.

Sixty special-needs children from various schools in the area were invited on base for some all-American kickball, dodgeball and ultimate Frisbee games.

And by the looks on the faces of the kids in attendance, good times were being had.

“We got smoked the first game,” Air Force Col. Bob Steele, the base commander, said before he and other unit commanders began a second spirited dodgeball round against the determined youngsters from Spring Common school in nearby Huntingdon.

Besides giving English kids a unique field trip, the day was also about reaching out, he said.

“It’s important for us to remind folks we’re guests in the U.K., and to remind folks in the U.K. that we’re human too,” Steele said. “We’re not just here in the enclave of the base.”

The event makes the base a better neighbor, said Penny Ashe, the community relations advisor for RAFs Alconbury, Molesworth and Upwood.

“Kids and sports are probably the two best things for community relations,” Ashe said.

While the kids were caught up in the competition, stopping only to say that they were having fun, Spring Common teacher Royston Bush said the day helps the kids with their self-esteem.

Dodgeball isn’t a huge sport in England, but Bush said he might have to start including it in his physical education classes.

“It’s such a big thing for them and something they look forward to, introducing them to new sports,” Bush said.

Keeping relations good between Alconbury Air Force personnel and the locals already has decades of history to stand on, Steele said.

“They’ve been supporting us since the early 1940s,” he said. “Their friendship and support transcends any fence.”

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