Partnerships

Sports Competition Enhances U.S. Military Partnerships

Sept. 9, 2019 | BY Joel Diller

U.S. Naval Support Activity Souda Bay, Greece, hosted its 18th Eco-Challenge, an annual outdoor sports competition that builds camaraderie and strengthens the U.S. relationship with NATO and Hellenic military partners.

Kayakers paddle on blue water with green mountains in the background.
Souda Bay Kayakers
Kayakers paddle into Souda Bay at the start of their 6-kilometer race during the 18th Annual Eco-Challenge held on the Akrotiri Peninsula on the Greek island of Crete, Sept. 7, 2019. Naval Support Activity Souda Bay annually hosts the Eco‐Challenge, an outdoor sports competition that builds camaraderie and strengthens the U.S. relationship with NATO and Hellenic military partners. NSA Souda Bay is an operational ashore base that enables U.S., allied and partner-nation forces to be where they are needed and when they are needed to ensure security and stability in Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia.
Photo By: Joel Diller, Navy
VIRIN: 190907-N-UR565-0363C

Ten teams accepted this year's challenge, with athletes from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, British Royal Air Force, Hellenic Navy, Hellenic Air Force, NATO Missile Firing Installation, and NATO Maritime Interdiction Training Center competing Sept. 7. Individuals from each five-member team participated in one of five events held across Crete’s Akrotiri Peninsula, which is home to NSA Souda Bay: the 10-kilometer hike, 20-kilometer run, 40-kilometer bike, 6-kilometer kayak, or 2,000-meter swim.

Byron Gale, NSA Souda Bay's fitness center director, said the spirit of the event is not just about winning, but also is about bringing people together. "It's about the teamwork of five people completing events together — events that maybe they didn't believe they could do before, but their team gives them the encouragement to finish," he said. "And it's about Team Souda, our host-nation military, and our local community working behind the scenes to make it happen, which is special to watch."

A man wearing goggles and a blue bathing cap swims.
Up For Air
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeremey Lim, Naval Support Activity Souda Bay, swam 2,000 meters in open water for the Crab Meat team during the 18th Annual Eco-Challenge held on the Akrotiri Peninsula on the Greek island of Crete, Sept. 7, 2019. Naval Support Activity Souda Bay annually hosts the Eco‐Challenge, an outdoor sports competition that builds camaraderie and strengthens the U.S. relationship with NATO and Hellenic military partners. NSA Souda Bay is an operational ashore base that enables U.S., allied and partner-nation forces to be where they are needed and when they are needed to ensure security and stability in Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Kelly M. Agee
VIRIN: 190907-N-AZ866-0950C
Man carries yellow kayak.
Competition Prep
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Keimondre Turner, Naval Support Activity Souda Bay, prepares for the 6K kayak event during the 18th Annual Eco-Challenge held on the Akrotiri Peninsula on the Greek island of Crete, Sept. 7, 2019. Naval Support Activity Souda Bay annually hosts the Eco‐Challenge, an outdoor sports competition that builds camaraderie and strengthens the U.S. relationship with NATO and Hellenic military partners. NSA Souda Bay is an operational ashore base that enables U.S., allied and partner-nation forces to be where they are needed and when they are needed to ensure security and stability in Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Kelly M . Agee
VIRIN: 190907-N-AZ866-0577Y

The athletes were not the only participants relying on teamwork for a safe and successful outcome. Since NSA Souda Bay's fire and security departments can only respond to on-base emergencies, coordination with the host-nation militaries, Hellenic police, and local community was vital for safety on Crete's roads and seas.

Partner organizations such as the Hellenic Navy and NATO Missile Firing Installation provided ambulances, doctors and rescue divers. The Hellenic Police stopped traffic and provided escort vehicles during the bike and run events, while the local emergency room had doctors standing by to assist.

It's a symbol of the cooperation and the coordination that happens every single day here on the Akrotiri Peninsula between the Hellenic Navy, the Hellenic Air Force, two NATO organizations and NSA Souda Bay."
Navy Capt. Ryan T. Tewell, NSA Souda Bay commanding officer

The fitness center staff took care of the athletes' health and safety leading up to the event by providing workout routines designed specifically for each event and riding the routes with the participants. During the event, they provided drinks, food, and energy gel at each station.

Athletic competitions allow athletes to test their abilities and validate their hard work. NSA Souda Bay's Eco-Challenge also highlights the U.S. Navy's partnership with its NATO and Hellenic military allies. As the host nation for NSA Souda Bay, Greece is routinely called an important NATO ally by Defense Department leaders due to its strategic location in the Mediterranean Sea and the joint and multinational exercises conducted in the region.

Hikers with backpacks walk on a trail.
Switchback Strides
Hikers navigate switchbacks along a 10-kilometer route during the 18th Annual Eco-Challenge on the Akrotiri Peninsula on the Greek island of Crete, Sept. 7, 2019. Naval Support Activity Souda Bay annually hosts the Eco‐Challenge, an outdoor sports competition that builds camaraderie and strengthens the U.S. relationship with NATO and Hellenic military partners. NSA Souda Bay is an operational ashore base that enables U.S., allied and partner-nation forces to be where they are needed and when they are needed to ensure security and stability in Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia.
Photo By: Joel Diller, Navy
VIRIN: 190907-N-UR565-0072Y
A hiker walks on a trail, with a mountain peak in the distance.
Rocky Route
Ioannis Benesis of the NATO Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Center navigates rocky terrain on a 10-kilometer route during the 18th Annual Eco-Challenge on the Akrotiri Peninsula on the Greek island of Crete, Sept. 7, 2019. Naval Support Activity Souda Bay annually hosts the Eco‐Challenge, an outdoor sports competition that builds camaraderie and strengthens the U.S. relationship with NATO and Hellenic military partners. NSA Souda Bay is an operational ashore base that enables U.S., allied and partner-nation forces to be where they are needed and when they are needed to ensure security and stability in Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia.
Photo By: Joel Diller
VIRIN: 190907-N-UR565-0197R
A hiker jogs along a trail.
Hellenic Hike
Dimitrios Kokogianakis of the Hellenic Navy takes on a 10-kilometer hike during the 18th Annual Eco-Challenge on the Akrotiri Peninsula on the Greek island of Crete, Sept. 7, 2019. Naval Support Activity Souda Bay annually hosts the Eco‐Challenge, an outdoor sports competition that builds camaraderie and strengthens the U.S. relationship with NATO and Hellenic military partners. NSA Souda Bay is an operational ashore base that enables U.S., allied and partner-nation forces to be where they are needed and when they are needed to ensure security and stability in Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia.
Photo By: Joel Diller, Navy
VIRIN: 190907-N-UR565-0217Y

NSA Souda Bay Commanding Officer Navy Capt. Ryan T. Tewell tackled the bike portion of the challenge. He noted the event is about more than just the competition between the military organizations on Crete.

"It's a symbol of the cooperation and the coordination that happens every single day here on the Akrotiri Peninsula between the Hellenic Navy, the Hellenic Air Force, two NATO organizations and NSA Souda Bay," Tewell said. "It's one of my favorite things every year, and I am honored to participate."

NSA Souda Bay is an operational ashore base that enables U.S., allied and partner-nation forces to be where they are needed and when they are needed to ensure security and stability in Europe, Africa, and Southwest Asia.

Man in a green kayak is greeted at shore by a brown dog running toward him.
Doggy Hello
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class John Ardiladelgado is greeted by his dog Cocoa after finishing the 6-kilometer kayak leg for the Public Works team during the 18th Annual Eco-Challenge held on the Akrotiri Peninsula on the Greek island of Crete, Sept. 7, 2019. Naval Support Activity Souda Bay annually hosts the Eco‐Challenge, an outdoor sports competition that builds camaraderie and strengthens the U.S. relationship with NATO and Hellenic military partners. NSA Souda Bay is an operational ashore base that enables U.S., allied and partner-nation forces to be where they are needed and when they are needed to ensure security and stability in Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Kelly M. Agee
VIRIN: 190907-N-AZ866-0611C
A woman wearing goggles and a pink bathing cap swims.
Swim Competition
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Megan Moore, Naval Support Activity Souda Bay, swam 2,000 meters in open water for the Souda Striders team during the 18th Annual Eco-Challenge held on the Akrotiri Peninsula on the Greek island of Crete, Sept. 7, 2019. Naval Support Activity Souda Bay annually hosts the Eco‐Challenge, an outdoor sports competition that builds camaraderie and strengthens the U.S. relationship with NATO and Hellenic military partners. NSA Souda Bay is an operational ashore base that enables U.S., allied and partner-nation forces to be where they are needed and when they are needed to ensure security and stability in Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Kelly M. Agee
VIRIN: 190907-N-AZ866-1085C