When one Lancer soldier is not out on the battlefield or training, he fights a different kind of battle on the rugby pitch with Fort Hood’s sanctioned rugby team: Phantom Warriors.
Spc. Griffin Simmons, health care specialist with Bravo Company, 2nd “Lancer” Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, has been playing rugby since he could run.
Growing up, Simmons played rugby on the beaches of Fiji using coconuts, bottles or shoes when no proper ball was available.
The rules are very similar to American football except there are no pads, helmets or forward passing.
Football later developed from rugby, changing to become more fashionable, safer and marketable.
Simmons played rugby through high school and college at the Fiji School of Medicine. After moving to the United States, he played for a year with a Houston team and toured the country.
Capt. Carlos De Castro Pretelt, commander of the Golf Forward Support Company, attached to the 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, is the Phantom Warriors forwards coach.
“We call him Fiji on the pitch,” De Castro Pretelt said about Simmons. “Everybody has a nickname.”
De Castro Pretelt is glad to have Simmons on the team because of his experience growing up playing rugby.
“It’s just part of my culture,” Simmons said. “Pacific islanders are very big rugby players.”
Simmons said because Pacific islanders are accustomed to playing in soft sand, they are known for being very heavy hitters.
At 5 feet, 10 inches tall and 215 pounds, Simmons thinks he is small for a Pacific islander.
The beautiful thing about rugby is it accommodates all shapes and sizes, said the Phantom Warriors head coach Capt. Jason Williams, a pre-mobilization planner assigned to the First Army Division West.
“Although size, strength and speed matters, most of it is about spirit and will,” Simmons said.
De Castro Pretelt associated rugby to a game of chess because each player has a tactical position according to their body type, capabilities and strengths.
Uneven matchups happen frequently and smaller players often face heavier, taller players who should, by every account, run them over, Simmons said.
“For you to have the personal strength, the courage to take on somebody that size and the sheer will to be able to put him down and defend your line (is) the most amazing feeling in the world,” he said.
De Castro Pretelt said the Phantom Warriors are fortunate to have support from the Morale, Welfare and Recreation directorate allowing the team to travel to play tournaments.
The team is grateful MWR has helped with tournament entry fees, kept up the practice field and provided the Phantom Warriors with what they need to be successful, Williams said.
“The only thing that we’re actually lacking is volunteers,” De Castro Pretelt said. “We need to get the word out there and show people that (rugby is) not all about size.”
Soldiers interested in trying out for the team, can contact Stephanie Mann, MWR varsity sports coordinator, at 254-287-5405.