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Good Neighbors: Airmen build friendship on the court

Jeremy Turner leaps for a spike against a team from Okinawa City during an invitational volleyball tournament Feb. 28, 2015, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Members of the Company Grade Officer Council and Airmen Committed to Excellence invited two Japanese teams to the base for a day of sportsmanship and camaraderie. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tim Flack)

Jeremy Turner leaps for a spike against a team from Okinawa City during an invitational volleyball tournament Feb. 28, 2015, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Members of the Company Grade Officer Council and Airmen Committed to Excellence invited two Japanese teams to the base for a day of sportsmanship and camaraderie. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tim Flack)

Katsuhiko Nakachi, chief of directors for the Okinawa City Volleyball Association, jump serves during an invitational volleyball tournament Feb. 28, 2015, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Members of the Company Grade Officer Council and Airmen Committed to Excellence invited two Japanese teams to the base for a day of sportsmanship and camaraderie. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tim Flack)

Katsuhiko Nakachi, chief of directors for the Okinawa City Volleyball Association, jump serves during an invitational volleyball tournament Feb. 28, 2015, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Members of the Company Grade Officer Council and Airmen Committed to Excellence invited two Japanese teams to the base for a day of sportsmanship and camaraderie. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tim Flack)

Adam Bearden soars for a spike during an invitational volleyball tournament Feb. 28, 2015, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Members of the Company Grade Officer Council and Airmen Committed to Excellence invited two Japanese teams to the base for a day of sportsmanship and camaraderie, and Bearden played with the Japan Air Self-Defense team from Naha Air Base during one of the games. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tim Flack)

Adam Bearden soars for a spike during an invitational volleyball tournament Feb. 28, 2015, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Members of the Company Grade Officer Council and Airmen Committed to Excellence invited two Japanese teams to the base for a day of sportsmanship and camaraderie, and Bearden played with the Japan Air Self-Defense team from Naha Air Base during one of the games. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tim Flack)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Airmen took to the volleyball court to help strengthen local friendships during an invitational tourney here Feb. 28, 2015.

Members of the Company Grade Officer Council and Airmen Committed to Excellence challenged two local teams to a day of sportsmanship and camaraderie at the Risner Fitness Center.

Capt. Jose Deliz Soto, CGOC president, said the tournament was about partnership with the local communities. The visiting teams were from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force at Naha Air Base, Okinawa, and from nearby Okinawa City.

Airman 1st Class Brandon Hagler, ACE president, said he jumped at the idea to participate.

"We're always looking for new ways for our Airmen to interact with the local community that result in positive outcomes," Hagler said. "The volleyball game served as great way to build camaraderie and showcase some competitiveness between the locals and the military members playing."

Deliz Soto said he was surprised at just how good the guests were on the court, joking that they were almost at the semi-professional level.

Katsuhiko Nakachi, chief of directors for the Okinawa City Volleyball Association, said his team was incredibly excited to visit the base to play for the first time.

"We were impressed with their powerful jumping, spikes and serves," Nakachi said. "We are looking forward to playing again in future and mingling with them after the games."

Hagler said it was also fun to see Okinawan friends and neighbors in a more relaxed environment.

"We work with many Okinawans and we see their modest, professional sides every day, all day," he said. "And we appreciate that because Japanese people happen to be some of the most welcoming, gracious people you could meet. But it's also great to see them in their element, playing a sport that they love while also being competitive.'
Deliz Soto said this won't be the last time the teams gather to compete on the court.

"I want to do it again," he said. "I think everybody had a great time."