Hanscom officers work, play hard in St. Patrick's Day Rugby Tournament

  • Published
  • By Meredith March
  • 66th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
On-duty Air Force service throughout the St. Patrick's Day weekend was fun and games for two Hanscom officers, who put on a different uniform as they joined Airmen from stations world-wide in Savannah, Ga., for the Savannah Shamrocks' famed annual St. Patrick's Day Rugby Tournament.

While the possibility of athletic glory was enticing, the real draw of the competition for Maj. Toby Edison, 753rd Electronic Systems Group, and 1st Lt. Brian Lemay, Air Force Research Laboratory, was the opportunity to reconnect and become acquainted with others who share the love of the game and the same commitment to excellence.

For the past 30 years, the tournament has assembled rugby players from all over the world, including the Air Force's finest, who always prove themselves to be fearsome opponents. The Air Force entered four teams into this year's tournament; Air Force Team 1 and the Air Force Academy team won second and third places, respectively, in the Men's Green Division, while Air Force Team 2 won second place in the Men's Gold Division.

Major Edison played for the Air Force team in the Old Boys Division, while Lieutenant Lemay played on Air Force Team 1. Lieutenant Lemay also served as captain for both teams in the Men's Divisions.

The tournament is a U.S. Air Force Rugby trial, meaning that a strong showing at the tournament can net an Air Force player an invitation to compete in the annual Armed Forces Rugby Championship, Lieutenant Lemay said. The Air Force team has proven formidable in that event -- they are the four-time defending champions.

Participation on the St. Patrick's Day teams, however, is more inclusive. "Anybody is welcome. If you're interested in coming, you coordinate through your supervisor and commander to get permissive temporary duty orders," Lieutenant Lemay said.

Despite the intense training schedule and fierce competition in Savannah, the atmosphere is a jovial one -- where servicemembers can catch up with Air Force friends scattered across the globe, said Major Edison. "It was important to go because a lot of close Air Force friends were there. It's always good to see how they are doing and what they are doing now for the Air Force."

Getting reacquainted with friends was also a high point for Lieutenant Lemay, who played rugby for the Air Force Academy. "There are a number of guys that I played rugby with at school who are now stationed in different places, and this is our opportunity to come back together, have a good time and play rugby again," he said.

It was also a chance to set an example for the AFA cadets, who competed in the Men's Division, Lieutenant Lemay said. "It was good for them to see that they can keep playing rugby after they graduate -- when they're out in the operational Air Force. I think the academy guys really enjoyed watching their coach, Capt. Andy McQuade, play with us on the Air Force team. When the men's team wasn't playing, we all tried to pass on our rugby knowledge to the young cadets," he said.

The tournament provided an example of how Air Force sports can unite diverse individuals, Major Edison said. "The four Air Force teams -- the two competitive teams, the old boys and the academy represented a great cross-section of the Air Force, both in mission and in generations."

The Air Force commitment to fitness is a major strength for the Air Force teams, Major Edison said. Preparing to compete provides an impetus for taking advantage of physical training time and becoming 'Fit to Fight.'

"I would definitely encourage people to seek out Air Force sports opportunities," Lieutenant Lemay said. "It's nice to stay active and get motivation for working out. I really want to thank my commanders and coworkers for allowing me to go and for picking up on the work I may leave behind. Without them, I wouldn't be able to take advantage of these opportunities."

The Air Force Core Values of Integrity First, Service Before Self and Excellence in All We Do also encourage team excellence off and on the pitch, Major Edison said. "Our philosophy of play fits well with many aspects of the Air Force Core Values and culture, which demand that each Airman take personal responsibility to be the best, be self confident in executing their mission with the greatest freedom and to operate within the rules of engagement set for the entire team."