Good People: Tom McNutt and the United States Bocce Federation
Soldiers, being action-oriented people for the most part, tend to get bored easily when not actively doing something.
They also treasure what little precious downtime they get -- especially in a warzone -- and have a knack for using it to the full when they have it.
I now present a captain with a novel idea to help maintain the morale of his troops, and a civilian who spearheaded a nationwide effort to help him fulfill it.
As it happens, all it took was a certain quantity of balls, and the selfless sacrifice of thousands of patriotic.....oysters?
Once again, I owe today's tasty tidbit to the ever-overly-informed Jim Quinn.
Allow me first to introduce Capt. Steve Jacsek, an officer with the US Army 110th Infantry Battalion currently serving in what he calls "the most dangerous square mile on earth" -- Habbaniyah, which is located squarely between Ramadi and Fallujah in the Sunni Triangle of Iraq.
He also happens to be a fan of that ancient game of warriors....bocce.
He was looking for a way to help bolster his troops' morale, and it hit him: Why not set up the world's first battle-ready bocce court?
Unfortunately, building a proper court is no mean feat. According to the home page of the United States Bocce Federation, a regulation bocce court is 76'-90' in length, 10'-12' wide, and consists of a three-to-five-inch layer of pea gravel, a three-inch layer of limestone for drainage...
...and a final three-inch layer of crushed oyster shells.
Yep, you read right. The traditional top surface of a bocce court is crushed oyster shells, which provide the optimum speed and minimum bounce that marks a quality court.
So, rather than try to kludge through such a demanding project by themselves, Capt. Jacsek and his non-com cohort, SFC Robert Foster, went to the experts -- the USBF itself -- and it didn't take long to get an answer:
To make a long story short, Tom McNutt rallied the efforts of USBF members across the country (including Dennis Franz of NYPD Blue fame) to send everything the soldiers needed to construct, and play on, their very own tournament-quality bocce court.
"I get a note back from Tom McNutt, a true patriot who owns Boccemon [a company which specializes in bocce-court surfaces] in Bellingham, Wash." Jaksec said. "He wanted to do the job right, so he arranged to have 12,000 pounds of custom-blended oyster shells sent to us so we could use it as our surface on the court."
The results of all this?
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Habbaniyah Combat Bocce Club, the world's first bocce house in a warzone...and the newest fully-sanctioned, recognized chapter of the United States Bocce Federation.
Now THAT takes balls....and a lot of Good People.