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Love of sports bonds servicemembers, Hondurans

Army Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford, a member of the Soto Cano Air Base basketball team, the Comayagua Iguanas, shows the proper shooting technique to young Honduran girl June1 in Siguatepeque, Honduras. Sergeant Lunsford is a player and coach for the base team. The team receives invitations to travel and play local Honduran teams. Sgt. Lunsford says the games offer a key avenue to bridge the cultural gaps between Americans and Hondurans. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shaun Emery.

Army Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford, a member of the Soto Cano Air Base basketball team, the Comayagua Iguanas, shows the proper shooting technique to young Honduran girl June1 in Siguatepeque, Honduras. Sergeant Lunsford is a player and coach for the base team. The team receives invitations to travel and play local Honduran teams. Sgt. Lunsford says the games offer a key avenue to bridge the cultural gaps between Americans and Hondurans. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shaun Emery.

Army Staff Sgt. Pete Schaffer, a member of the Soto Cano Air Base basketball team, the Comayagua Iguanas, plays tight defense against Alejandro Cruz from the Tegucigalpa Predators. The base team traveled to Siguatepeque, Honduras to take part in a sports tournament. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shaun Emery.

Army Staff Sgt. Pete Schaffer, a member of the Soto Cano Air Base basketball team, the Comayagua Iguanas, plays tight defense against Alejandro Cruz from the Tegucigalpa Predators. The base team traveled to Siguatepeque, Honduras to take part in a sports tournament. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shaun Emery.

SIGUATEPEQUE, Honduras -- His large hands guided those of the little girl as she raised the ball to eye-level. Several attempts had fallen short of their intended target. After some words of advice, she heaved the ball and thunderous applause filled the room as it dropped through the net. The look of delight spread across the girl's face as well as everyone there to watch the Soto Cano Air Base basketball team - the Comayagua Iguanas - take on the Tegucigalpa Predators in Siguatepeque, Honduras.

"When I asked that little girl if she likes basketball, she said she did very much," said Army Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford, Civil Affairs assistant director and Iguana's coach. "I wanted to give her a chance to see that she could do it. Hopefully it gives her a little hope that she can do anything she tries."

Prior to their game, Iguanas players took some time to provide fundamental instructions to a group of female basketball players. The players took part in passing, shooting and dribbling drills. Afterward the girls showed off their new skills against each other on the court.

The base basketball team receives many invitations from local communities to compete against local teams. According to Sergeant Lunsford, it is a great opportunity to strengthen the cultural bridge between the Honduran public and the military members stationed here.

In a place where language can sometimes be a barrier, one thing that holds true in both the United States and Honduras is a competitive spirit on the court.

"The people living here take their sports very seriously," said Sergeant Lunsford. "They see basketball as an American game and they want to compete with us. Along the way we learn a lot from one another."

As the game approached, the stands slowly began to fill with students from the local university. Many were excited to see the base team, calling out the players names and cheering as the teams were announced.

While the game did not go in favor of the Iguanas, Sergeant Lunsford said the final score wasn't the most important part of the trip.

"We were there representing the base as well as our country," said Sergeant Lunsford. "And in this joint military environment it helps build camaraderie between our guys."

After the game, players were exchanging e-mail addresses and phone numbers, in hopes that those friendships formed on the court could extend into the future.
"It was great to get to know the Americans stationed here," said Alejandro Cruz, a member of the Predators. "It's a great opportunity to learn about each other and share the game of basketball."

Army Staff Sgt. Pete Schaffer fully intends to use the contacts he made in the future.
"Hopefully I'll get a chance to get to Tegus and play some ball with these guys one weekend."

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