Mojave Greens

Last week, I was speaking to David Payne of the Mojave Greens. He was telling me how things were going. How their player list was approaching 20 guys, and how they were regularly getting 12 guys out to their training runs. Little did I realize they're training 3 times a week in near freezing temps, but hey, this is the US Army we're talking about here. How could I have expected anything less. As many of you know Lt. Payne has done a fantastic job getting these guys organized and he's been looking to get an Aussie accent out to the Base to do a radio interview on the Base radio station. So we decided we'd just bite the bullet and get it scheduled and with the assistance of Paul Pietsch, Orange County's new coach, we set up Monday as the date we would do the interview and run training with the Greens.

For those unaware of where Fort Irwin is let's just say it's not on many maps. Heading north on I-15 we pass through the desert communities of Victorville and Barstow before turning off on Ft. Irwin Road. Peachy and I quickly rename it Road Kill Alley as there are more crosses than mile markers on this road. I think we were both wondering if these were markers from errant live fire rounds taking out civilians. 31 miles later we made it to the base in one piece although this was the first time I has seen a sign that read "Tank Crossing".

Arriving on the base we are met by Lt. David Payne who ushers us through the guard station and the obligatory body cavity check. From here we go directly to the radio station where we are interviewed by the Army's own Katie Couric. The interview went off extremely well. Lasting 15 minutes it was quite apparent that the Army trains everyone well as this young lady conducted the interview like someone who had a pretty good deal of knowledge of the game considering she'd never heard of the game 20 minutes earlier.

From here we head down to Army Field which is a baseball field that will be converted into the home of the Mojave Greens for the 2004 season. Lt. Payne goes onto explain how the Army is removing the dirt infield area and replacing it with grass. As with most trainings here in the states, guys start trickling in and getting warmed up for our 5:30 training start. The lights are on and the chill is in full effect. They usually start training at 6:00 so guys are trickling in until then and all of a sudden we've got 17 guys for training. Peachy takes the guys through basic skill drills and as he's explaining the next drill. He tosses the ball to me. We see 17 heads immediately hit the deck and they start pumping out 10 pushups. Peachy and I look at one another like did we miss something. Figuring this is just something Army guys do we wait and in no time everyone is back up listening intently on what Peachy is saying. As he finishes, I toss the ball back to Peachy and immediately the guys drop again. 10 push ups. No problem. No complaint....and for Peachy and I, no clue as to what's causing this orgy of pushups.

The Greens have got some pull as well. Major Ken Shite(sic?) shows up after a meeting ran late and he gives me a run down on what they do at the base. Ft. Irwin is a training facility for our fighting men and women who are headed to places around the world where their expertise is required. Currently, the 3rd Infantry Division is on the base, back from Iraq. The Mojave boys are responsible for playing the bad guys in war game exercises they hold North of the base. He goes on to explain how every Army Vehicle on post is equipped with GPS tracking equipment and that every movement and round fired is recorded at "Star Wars" which is a building not far from where we're training. This bit of information quickly ruins my idea of commandeering a vacant humvee for a little joy ride through the desert. In any event, Major Shite was quite impressed with the fitness required by the game and he is sold on the benefits it offers soldiers above and beyond their normal PT.

The Greens are keen. I haven't seen this much energy at training since... ever! These guys soaked up every word. The discipline they displayed was phenomenal and you were constantly aware that these guys are a cut above. Their military training makes them a coach's dream. Every instruction was answered with a "HUA" and rarely was a second instruction required. Advancing the drills to now include some passages of running through and incorporating kicking and hand balling, Peachy is once again explain how the next drill will work and I toss him the football and immediately 17 heads drop and 10 more. Finally, we have to ask, "What's with the pushups?" They explain they don't toss the footy at training it always has to be hand balled or kicked. Otherwise, drop for one zero. Got it! Uh it.

Finishing up training we take them through some simple criss-cross handball and some light bumping which nearly turns into a mosh pit, and before you know it training is over.

On behalf of Peachy and myself, I want to thank the Greens for having us out. As I said it was one of the best experiences in football and I can't wait to get back to Ft. Irwin for your games.

Driving home I was reminded of the AFL's marketing campaign from a few years ago... 17 US Army personnel playing footy in freezing temps in the middle of the Mojave Desert... Yeah, I'd like to see that!

- Chris Olson

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