AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment blew off steam ahead of a looming Iraq deployment by competing in the Amsterdam Sevens rugby tournament over the weekend.

Members of the regiment joined with other 12th Combat Aviation Brigade troops and a few German players to play with Illesheim Black N’ Blue, a U.S. military rugby team that has participated in the Amsterdam event since 1994.

Last year, the team narrowly lost the tournament’s plate final in the main stadium before a crowd of thousands. But with many Illesheim players already serving in Iraq with other 12th CAB units, this year’s event was more about competing and less about winning for the U.S. players.

The team’s first match on Saturday — a 47-0 pounding by the Marauders, a group of first grade English club players — set the tone for the tournament. The Black N’ Blue boys followed that up by losing to Amsterdam Athletic club 41-0 but scored their only points against another Dutch team, the Global Oysters, in a 24-5 loss. In their last match of the tournament the U.S. team was thrashed by a group of South Africans, Hans Brinker Boertjies, 63-0.

One of the U.S. players, Sgt. Randy Castillo, 32, of Falfurrias, Texas, who serves with Company D, 412th Aviation Support Battalion, said the tournament was a great stress-buster for the soldiers headed downrange later this summer.

"For an American soldier living in Germany this is one of the greatest things you can experience," said Castillo, who’s been playing rugby for seven years.

Illesheim Community Bank teller Jovan Archuleta, 31, and his wife, Warrant Officer Lynsey Justice, 24, both played in the tournament.

Archuleta, in his first year of rugby, played for Illesheim, and Justice played her first game for the Norwegian Raiderettes.

"She’s come to our tournaments and watched our practices and games, but that was her first time getting out there to play," Archuleta said of his wife.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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