Rowing for a cause: ACSC, AWC teams compete in dragon boat race, raise money for charity

Rowing for a CauseThe Air War College team paddles to the start line for their first race of the Montgomery Dragon Boat Festival Saturday. / Photos by Maj. Christian Deichert

Written by
Kelly Deichert
Dispatch editor

  • Air Command and Staff College’s Earth, Wind and Water I team placed first in the Montgomery Dragon Boat Festival Saturday, beating more than 70 local teams, including a second ACSC team and one from the Air War College.

“It’s a great start to a long year of developing teamwork and relationships,” said ACSC assistant captain Maj. Deirdre Gurry.

For the Earth, Wind and Water teams, winning was important, but the charities were the driving force behind their entry.

“Ultimately it comes down to the charity and giving back to the city of Montgomery,” Gurry said. The teams raised money for Rebuilding Together Central Alabama and Bridge Builders Alabama. Each team had to raise at least $2,500.

ACSC also contributed 72 hours of volunteer time, assisting the festival’s organizers.
Giving back is important to the class of 2013. “We have a goal of 5,000 hours as a class,” said Maj. Andre Brown, captain of the teams.

More than 60 students and staff signed up to race, resulting in two ACSC teams. “It was great to get so many volunteers,” Brown said.

Participating in the event, racing alongside teams from Montgomery churches, charities, businesses and civic organizations, shows Maxwell’s connection with the city. “The military is giving back to the community that gives to us,” he said.

“The dragon boat festival was a fantastic event,” said Navy Commander Ben Willkie, coach of the Air War College team. “I am proud of the AWC team finish and congratulate the Earth, Wind and Fire team of ACSC on their victory. Congratulations also to the volunteers from both schools who were instrumental in making the event a great success for the city and beneficiaries.

The AWC team finished third overall. The second ACSC team finished second in its division.

Each team had a couple of hours of practice time in the boat on the Alabama River prior to the race. The boats are 44-feet long, holding 20 rowers, one drummer and one person to steer.

“I am amazed how this group was able to come together with no more than one to two hours of training to win it all,” Brown said.

The dragon boat race is an ideal program for ACSC students, combining physical training, community service and teamwork.

“The key to dragon boat is less about strength and more about coordination and timing,” Gurry said.

The ASCS teams, named Earth, Wind and Water I and II, represent the diversity of students. “The team name came from the services, the fact we’re a joint team,” Gurry said. “The race solidifies what we learn in class, the connection with the sister services.”

She even designed the groups’ T-shirt, featuring the three elements. At the end of the day, the teams aimed to have a good time. “Fun is the most important part,” Gurry said.

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