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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Driving down the left sideline, Thomas Rabern pulled up, then snapped off a hard right-footed shot that clanked off the near goalpost before finding the back of the net for his 12th goal of the Marine Forces Pacific Regional Soccer Tournament.

After four days of play, the 3rd Force Service Support Group forward has three more goals than his two closest competitors.

Yet because of duty commitments at his home station of Camp Kinser, Okinawa, the acknowledged best finisher in the tournament likely will not be able to move onto the All-Marine tryout camp Oct. 11-Nov. 1 in San Diego.

“It’s nerve-wracking, knowing [the tournament is] coming to an end, but I can’t go \[to tryout camp],” Rabern said.

He’s not alone, tournament officials said. Of the 134 players on rosters in the tournament, only 25 are eligible to travel to All-Marine camp.

“Slim pickin’s. Duty calls,” said Mike Walker of Marine Corps Community Services Semper Fit Athletics, which runs the Marine regional program.

With operational commitments around the world, the pool of Marines available to the All-Armed Forces sports program is growing ever smaller.

And the results show: The All-Marine men’s and women’s softball teams went a combined 1-17 in last month’s All-Armed Forces tournaments. The All-Marine men’s team had just two players with prior All-Armed Forces experience.

“It’s just how it works,” said Corey Carter of Semper Fit Athletics. “There’s nothing you can really do about it. You want to congratulate them by sending them to camp. You pick whoever you can, and if one can’t go, you go with somebody next in line. Still, you’d like to see a kid like that go.”

“It’s like having a ton of money but no place to spend it,” said Raburn, 22, a lance corporal from Columbia, S.C., a multi-channel radio technician at Kinser.

It wasn’t what Rabern said he bargained for when he joined the Marine Corps in February 2002, partly because of Sept. 11, but also because he wanted to play All-Marine soccer.

He missed his chance in 2002 because of technical training at Twentynine Palms, Calif., and again in 2003 when he was deployed to Australia.

Though Rabern has spent much of the week playing finisher, he says he was more the playmaker and assist man during his high school days, when he was a four-sport star at Spring Valley High.

“I distributed the ball well,” he said. “Here, I’m a forward. I can finish, but I’d rather be distributing the ball.”

Rabern’s ability is such that his coach, Nicholas Peters, is working through command channels in a last-ditch effort to get him to camp.

“We won’t know until the end of the week,” Peters said. “We’re working on it, though. He gives 150 percent. He deserves it.”

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