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U.S. and French Service Members Battle in Game of Rugby
The U.S. 9th Provisional Security Force (PSF) took on the French Forces of Djibouti (FFDJ) for a fast-paced game of rugby at Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa&#39;s (CJTF-HOA) headquarters in Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, January 15, 2009. <br
CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti - U.S. Marines with Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa and service members with the French Forces of Djibouti (FFDJ) play a game of rugby, January 15, 2009 at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti. Camp Lemonier is the hub of CJTF-HOA, which works to improve security and regional cooperation among nations in the Horn of Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sergeant Joe Zuccaro)
1 photo: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 1 of 1: CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti - U.S. Marines with Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa and service members with the French Forces of Djibouti (FFDJ) play a game of rugby, January 15, 2009 at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti. Camp Lemonier is the hub of CJTF-HOA, which works to improve security and regional cooperation among nations in the Horn of Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sergeant Joe Zuccaro) Download full-resolution version
The U.S. 9th Provisional Security Force (PSF) took on the French Forces of Djibouti (FFDJ) for a fast-paced game of rugby at Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa's (CJTF-HOA) headquarters in Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, January 15, 2009.

This was the second meeting between the two teams, and the U.S. Marines were not intimidated by their opponents' much higher level of experience in the game. They played hard all game long, despite losing 49-12.

"The Marines are very tough, very physical," said French Foreign Legion Major Sebastian Donneau, who has played rugby for 20 years. "They get better each time we play them. And this is not an easy game. The action is constant; there is more running than in football."

Team coach Marine Sergeant Major James Martin, who played alongside his fellow Marines, was impressed by their efforts to prepare, with twice-weekly practices for six weeks before the game.

"They're very enthusiastic," said Martin. "They got up at 6 a.m. to get the field ready, and they've been all smiles today, ready to play."

While this was only the second time many of the Marines had played the game, they said they were eager to participate.

"It's a great way to expend some energy," said Marine Corporal Ryan Burtka, who played winger. "You get thrown around pretty good, but it's a lot of fun."

Fellow winger Marine Lance Corporal Trent Tufte agreed, saying it's a great way to meet other Marines in the battalion.

"We've got officers, junior enlisted, non-commissioned officers; the whole smorgasbord," Tufte added. "And it's cool to find common ground with the French; if it wasn't for this, we'd probably never interact with them."

When the game was over, the French extended an offer to play 20 more minutes just for fun, and the PSF gladly accepted.

"To win or to lose is not important," said Donneau. "It's very interesting to share a common experience, to learn about a different way of life."

Martin said the game was an excellent way to form a relationship with service members from another country, especially since rugby is especially ingrained in French culture.

"At the grassroots level, there's really no difference between us and them. They're here doing the same thing we are," Martin said. "I'm originally from England myself, so really, it makes perfect sense for me to take on the French in a game of rugby anyway."

U.S. Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen and Marines gathered together in the stands to cheer on their teammates.

"You can break bones in this game!" shouted U.S. Navy Yeoman Seaman Ashley Henderson, who was watching her first rugby game. "This game is hardcore. They aren't playing around out there."

Martin said the PSF plans to play the FFDJ again each month until their unit returns to the United States.
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