By Army Staff Sgt. Alexander Burnett
21st Theater Sustainment Command
ZAGREB, Croatia, Aug. 28, 2013 – During the duty day at Operation Immediate Response here, he can be found issuing water, in-processing personnel or even passing out laundry bundles to U.S. soldiers and service members from the Balkan region of Europe. In the evening, when the computers are powered down and the exercise is on pause, he builds international bonds by engaging in a European pastime: soccer.
Soccer has been his favorite sport and hobby since he was 7 years old, the Tyler, Texas, native said. At the end of his first duty day here, Jimenez added, he immediately began asking Croatian soldiers if they played soccer. They told him where to go, and they’ve been playing as often as possible ever since.
Due to the varying work schedules of each nation, the players involved change every evening. Jimenez, however, has been a constant member on the field and has earned the respect of the other players.
“He plays … incredibly well, especially for an American,” said Cpl. Joseph Oreskovic, a Croatian army signalman. “We know in America you have your own football that is your favorite sport, but here, he is very good at our football.”
Each player has his own military mission in Operation Immediate Response, and most of them interact every day. Many of them believe that it is important to continue building bonds even after the duty day is over.
“It’s nice to come out here after work and play football together. Playing with our partners from Slovenia, the U.S. and Croatia and anyone else who shows up really pays dividends,” said Sgt. Peter A. Stubbs, a British army signal platoon sergeant. “The job reality is that we may all see each other again in a combat situation. The bond will be stronger when that time comes because of things like this.”
Jimenez said that when he played soccer in high school and at Central Baptist College in Conway, Ark., he never thought it would lead to him sharing the field with military members from around the world.
“Playing out here, I feel like I am making friends for life,” he said. “I see these guys every day at work during the exercise, but it’s out here on the field that I really got the know them.”
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