First Army Division West’s 166th Aviation Brigade uses Fantasy Football to connect and build teamwork within its geographically displaced formations.
“With four active-duty battalions and two reserve component battalions located in four different locations in three states it is impossible to get the entire brigade in one place,” said Lt. Col. Phil Graham, deputy brigade commander. “So virtually, through fantasy football, we can all participate in a fun competition and team build.”
Col. Kevin Vizzarri, brigade commander, gathered personnel at his off-post home locally, telephonically and online to conduct the 2nd Annual GreyWing Fantasy Football League Draft. More than 130 people attended the draft and family readiness group team-building party/shrimp boil including Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps Jr., commander of Division West, and Col. Gregory Reilly, division chief of staff.
Jana Cameron, the brigade personnel coach, even video chatted online with her husband, Sgt. Maj. Eric Cameron, a squadron sergeant major with 1st Cavalry Division in Afghanistan to help her draft a team.
“Last year, my husband helped me out in person, and it was fun,” Cameron said. “This league helps us as a couple while he is deployed. Our conversations can now turn to this instead of the normal countdown of days.”
Good units become great units when they communicate up and down the chain of command but, more importantly, laterally, Vizzarri said.
“The intent is to open the lines of communication. I have successfully been doing this in units since 2005 when we were deployed in Afghanistan,” he said. “It takes your mind off of the stress of the deployment and starts a conversation with staff that leads to the more important operational coordination.”
The league has 14 teams with coaches from each of the six battalions, various brigade staff sections, and a joint team run by Graham and the Maj. Doug Fullerton, brigade executive officer. Vizzarri and brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Glen Vela share a team together to make things more interesting.
Even last year’s champion, Maj. Joseph Parker, now serving as the First Army commander’s executive officer, has a team as he attempts to defend his title as the league champion. He earned a “dog-tag” identification as the 2012 league winner, while a second tag was placed on the official league trophy for permanent reminder of his accomplishments in the league.
“This really adds to the brigade’s esprit de corps. We’re all getting too old to play and it’s always good to beat your boss,” said Parker, a former West Point football team place kicker.
With first weeks of the football season already on the books, the “trash talk” of the 166th Aviation Brigade Fantasy Football League Draft is now a memory. Busts, sleepers, and the waiver wire picks are the new topics of initial conversations between battalions and staff sections, but this quickly transitions into coordination for training the next reserve aviation units.
The next brigade Fantasy Football Champion will be crowned in 16 weeks, along with the last place team with the “BAD-azzle ball,” a Nerf football with plastic jewels and the unit’s name on a plaque.
“My battalion won this award last year, but it’s all in good fun. It motivates us to do better this year while hopefully maintaining great players on our roster such as Joe Flacco,” Fullerton said.