CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti --
When a small group of Marines and Sailors left the USS Nassau to come ashore here to conduct some training and get time off ship for a few days there were expectations of seeing a small piece of Africa. Little did they know that their role in international military relations with a U.S. ally from half a world away would be tested on Astroturf.
On April 20, Marines and Sailors from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and USS Nassau tested their softball skills against members of the Japanese military who are currently deployed to Camp Lemonier.
“Who would have ever thought that U.S. Marines and members of the Japanese military would end up playing a softball game together in Africa,” said GySgt. Daniel Fischbach, who set up the game after meeting some of the Japanese service members at a ‘bar and grill’ located on the base.
“I’ve served 6 of my 16 years in the Marine Corps in Okinawa, and have had the opportunity to play more than my fair share of baseball and softball with the Japanese, and I know they love the game” said Fischbach, who works for the 24th MEU’s communications section. “I knew that if I could pitch the idea to them it would happen.”
Fischbach set up the event after noticing the Japanese troops playing softball a couple of days earlier. He ended up meeting with Maj. Kenta Imai, commanding officer for the Central Readiness Regiment, Central Readiness Forces, Japan, mentioning that he noticed the Japanese troops playing softball and wanted to know if they’d like to play against the Marines and Sailors before they head back to ship.
The excitement by the major told Fischbach that this was a done deal without any further explanation needed. At 7 p.m. on April 20, Team Nassau and Team CRF Japan took the field for a memorable 12-12 tied game that will be a lasting memory for all who participated.
“Even though we didn’t have translators we all spoke a common language on the field,” said GySgt. Ryan Molsberry, the headquarters commandant for the MEU’s command element.
“We didn’t speak Japanese, only a couple of them spoke English, but we all knew what each other were saying during the game.”
While the game was fun, the night was highlighted by the simple fact that both sides were deployed away from their home countries and could share a bond of hardship serving their countries.
While there were no diplomats or foreign policy agendas the Marines understood the importance of their role as ambassadors of the U.S. with their Japanese partners.
“I think that building foreign relations through something as simple as a softball game is important,” said Cpl. Christopher Torn, a 26-year-old intelligence analyst with 24th MEU.
“Even with the significant language barrier between the two teams, we were able to still engage in friendly competition that resulted in mutual respect between US and Japanese troops,” said Torn, a Tampa, Fla., native.
As the game wrapped up both teams exchanged handshakes and bows.
Imai capped the night by presenting a Japanese and American flag for the group to take a picture with.
“This was a great event that we’d like to more of,” said Torn. “Everyone had a blast.”