News Search


Lady Shoguns Defend Title

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Omari Bernard
  • 18th Wing
Each spring on Okinawa, wooden dragons soar through the sea as thousands of onlookers watch from Tomari Wharf in Naha City. Dozens of teams combat the sea, and their nerves, as each team member struggles to stroke in unison to the tune of a bronze gong that can barely be heard over the cheers of the crowd.

The Kadena Shoguns Dragon Boat Teams competed in the 43rd Annual Naha Hari May 5, 2017, at Tomari Wharf, Naha City, Japan.

At the beginning of every year, the men’s and women’s Kadena Shoguns Dragon Boat Teams begin to train for Okinawa’s largest dragon boat race. This year, the women’s defended their title for “best U.S. military all-women’s team” for the second year in a row.

“We start in January with physical conditioning,” said Sherry Sawyer, Kadena Shoguns Women’s Dragon Boat Team captain, “We hit the water in February at the Kadena Marina. There, we practice multiple times a week for more than several hours.”

Their hard work and dedication paid off when the Kadena Shoguns Women’s Dragon Boat Team defeated the Army’s and Navy’s women’s dragon boat teams in their heat and finished 14th overall out of 51 competing teams.

The men’s team finished 13th out of the 51 competing teams, behind the U.S. Army’s men’s and Japan Air Self Defense Force teams.

“Everyone had fun,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Joe Hurt, Kadena Shoguns Men’s Dragon Boat Team captain. “The best part of this event is everyone living on Kadena coming together to form the teams and compete in this local tradition.”

Each member of the Kadena Shoguns Dragon Boat Teams took away something from competing in this part of Okinawan culture.

“The most rewarding part of completing this race is seeing each member on the team reach their potential,” Sawyer said. “At first they doubt themselves, but they come out to each practice and become stronger over the months. They build bonds and friendships. Some of the team members are brand new to the island and now have more than 30 friends. The best part, for me, is watching the team grow to become proud of themselves.”