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Ecuadorian Air Force edge the U.S. Air Force 26-25

The Ecuadorian Air Force team, wearing orange, squares off against the U.S. Air Force Dec. 9, here during a championship basketball game. The lead was exchanged back and forth to the end as a crowd of nearly 100 U.S. Air Force and Ecuadorian Air Force and civilians jumped out of their seats and shouted for their players. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Matthew McGovern)

The Ecuadorian Air Force team, wearing orange, squares off against the U.S. Air Force Dec. 9, here during a championship basketball game. The lead was exchanged back and forth to the end as a crowd of nearly 100 U.S. Air Force and Ecuadorian Air Force and civilians jumped out of their seats and shouted for their players. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Matthew McGovern)

The U.S. Air Force team hugs the Ecuadorian Air Force team and congratulates them after their win. Members of the U.S. Air Force lost by a point to the Ecuadorian Air Force Dec. 9, during a basketball championship game here. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Matthew McGovern)

The U.S. Air Force team hugs the Ecuadorian Air Force team and congratulates them after their win. Members of the U.S. Air Force lost by a point to the Ecuadorian Air Force Dec. 9, during a basketball championship game here. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Matthew McGovern)

A member of the Ecuadorian Air Force team makes a basket while competing against a U.S. Air Force team Dec. 9, here during a championship basketball game. Though the two teams played against each other, off the court, they work together executing the   mission to counter the movement of drugs in the area. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Matthew McGovern)

A member of the Ecuadorian Air Force team makes a basket while competing against a U.S. Air Force team Dec. 9, here during a championship basketball game. Though the two teams played against each other, off the court, they work together executing the mission to counter the movement of drugs in the area. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Matthew McGovern)

FORWARD OPERATING LOCATION Manta -- Members of the U.S. Air Force lost by a point to the Ecuadorian Air Force Dec. 9, during a basketball championship game here. 

The lead was exchanged back and forth to the end as a crowd of nearly 100 U.S. Air Force and Ecuadorian Air Force and civilians jumped out of their seats and shouted for their players. 

"They were a lot stronger than we expected," said Jared Curtis, the U.S. Air Force team leader. What they lack in size, they made up for in hustle," he said. 

The Ecuadorian team had similar thoughts about the Americans. 

"The U.S. team was very hard to beat," said William Voleo, team member from the Ecuadorian Air Force. "They had good, taller players. "We put all our emotion, desire and heart into the game because it was an international competition," said Voleo. 

Though the two teams played against each other, off the court, they work together executing the mission to counter the movement of drugs in the area. The leadership re-emphasized that fact. 

"It's important to integrate our people and have fun," said Eduardo Cárdenas, the Ecuadorian Air Force commander. 

The deputy commander of Southern Command, Lt. Gen. Glenn Spears, watched the game while in the area for a "Holiday Tour" to visit forward deployed personnel and assist nearby communities in seven Latin American countries during the holiday season. 

Colonel Spears was entertained with the intensity of the game but also pleased to see the two teams interacting. 

"They came to play," he said. "The partnership is critical here. We in the U.S. are eager to work as equals with the military of the region to confront the challenge that face all of us together," the general added. 

"Our Motto at SOUTHCOM is, 'Partnership for the Americans,' because the western hemisphere is the home that we share." 

That partnership was evident at the end of the game when the players from both team hugged one-another in friendship.

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