USAF Lieutenant Gears Up for Soccer at CISM World Games

By Air Force 1st Lt. Aaron Zendejas
961st Airborne Air Control Squadron

AaronZendejas

Air Force 1st Lt. Aaron Zendejas, an air weapons officer for the 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron, practices with a soccer ball in preparation for the 6th International Military Sports Council World Games in South Korea.

My name is Aaron Zendejas. I’m just an airman who was given the opportunity to do what I love for the ones I love. I get to play soccer for Team USA in the Military Olympics. I’m an air weapons officer from the 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron — best AWACS squadron there is — out of Kadena Air Base, Japan. But for the next two weeks, I’ll be coming to you from Mungyeong, South Korea, where the 6th International Military Sports Council World Games are about to be underway.

A few days ago, we hopped on the bus outside of the lodging at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, and began the long journey across the Pacific. We’ve all been able to find pockets of sleep here and there, but for the most part, it’s has seemed like one extremely long day.

Before we hit the airport in Los Angeles, we made sure to fuel up with one last, decent American meal before we hit foreign soil, because we had no idea what kinds of grub awaited us in Korea. Turns out the grub in the village has scored an impressive 10/10, which is huge! After all, food is one of the top three things that sporting young men think about. But more on that later.

The flight was uneventful, give or take a few reported hygiene issues of bacterially challenged guests seated among us. But that is pretty standard. Most of us used the 13 hours of downtime to read, watch movies or catch some much needed Z’s. Despite relaxing, traveling for half of a day at 34,000 feet took a toll on our bodies, as it always does. However, we got a second wind upon landing and seeing a plethora of smiling, uniformed/sashed CISM representatives — CISM is the French acronym for International Military Sports Council — waiting exclusively for Team USA. It doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re doing; when the sense of American pride and adventure beckons, jet lag and every other weakness disappears.

In good spirits, we boarded our next bus for a three-hour drive to our temporary athletic village, stopping halfway through at a rest stop for our first taste of Korean fare. In the heart of the rest stop there was a square, resembling a miniature food court. Street vendors on every corner would sell their trade of high-fatty-content, recently fried specialties. Reluctant at first, the squad fearlessly chowed down on several interesting selections in the name of hunger. Stomachs were appeased.

Finally, arriving at the gate to the athletic village, we immediately noticed how friendly and professional the South Korean guards were. The safety and well-being of the athletes is being taken very seriously. There are a lot of procedures to abide by and safety countermeasures in place, but i am appreciative of the job they are doing to provide a quality atmosphere where we can compete unimpeded of security factors. However, as the village starts to fill up with more and more teams and guests, we will be sure to remain vigilant and aware of our surroundings as briefed.

Today will be our first true training session on Korean soil. We’re all looking forward to lacing up and having a good run-about as we get our land legs back from the long journey. Fit from camp, our mental acuity and physical sharpness in these light training sessions will translate directly to the pitch. We know we have the talent to compete; now it’s just a matter of focusing on the details and doing what we came here to do: representing the USA with all that we’ve got.

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