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A Marine tries to break through the Army line Tuesday night during a football game between the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and units from the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment.
A Marine tries to break through the Army line Tuesday night during a football game between the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and units from the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment. (Jason Chudy / S&S)

CAMP DUKE, Iraq — The only American bullets flying around the Najaf area these days are quick passes or line drives into centerfield.

Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment and Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, who are waiting to move from their base camp, have been fighting evening battles of their own on a clear patch of dirt and dust.

On Monday night, the two teams squared off in stickball, using a wadded-up cloth wrapped in duct tape as a ball and a pick handle as a bat. On Tuesday they pulled out the old pigskin.

“It’s a good time,” said Marine Sgt. Jacob Mullin. “It’s good for both units to relax a little.”

“This couldn’t have happened at a better time,” said Army Sgt. Raymond Davis, whose 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment platoon is assigned to 2-7 Cav. “Otherwise they’d be sitting in their tents, doing nothing.”

Before joining the Army, Davis was a Marine working on assault amphibian vehicles.

“Some of those guys I actually trained,” he said, gesturing to the other side of the field.

After arriving at Duke from Najaf, Davis approached the Marines to see if he knew any of them. He then asked if they would like to play against the Army.

They accepted, and now the teams will face each other on this field of battle every night until they leave.

“Every day before we leave we’ll engage in some sort of sports activity,” said Spc. Jason Ware during a break in the action.

“We’ll both be here until Friday or Saturday,” said Marine Sgt. Damon Eppinette, who watched the game from the back of his assault vehicle.

Wednesday night’s sporting event hadn’t been decided yet, but the Marines anxiously eyed a handful of Iraqi soldiers watching the game from a nearby berm.

“Maybe they’ll get a pretty good soccer team and take on the Iraqis,” said Eppinette, offhandedly.

“They would kill us,” countered Mullin.

“Yeah, that’s why we don’t bring out the soccer ball,” Eppinette said.

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