Navy celebrates birthday at 2nd annual cardboard regatta

By Craig M. Rader DLA Land and Maritime Public Affairs

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A raging naval battle took place Oct. 13 at Defense Supply Center Columbus that saw projectiles launched, ships destroyed, and at least one sword brandished.

The action was all in good fun though, as teams from Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime raced boats made from cardboard and duct tape across the installation golf course pond. The races were in celebration of the Navy’s 241st birthday, followed by the traditional cutting of a birthday cake using a military sword after the competition.

To add to the suspense of the races, onlookers on the pond’s shore threw water balloons at the cardboard watercraft in an effort to sink the opposing teams. In some cases, the balloons weren’t necessary, as several boats sank almost immediately after entering the water.

Land and Maritime’s Acting Commander James McClaugherty kicked off the event and reminded the audience that the day’s activities were not just a part of the birthday celebrations taking place around the world, but a reminder of the continued importance of the Navy’s role in keeping our nation safe.

“Today we have fun with our coworkers, we enjoy time with our families, and we celebrate the birthday of the Navy,” McClaugherty said. “But we also remember that the sailors who put on the uniform each day are out there defending our freedom, and we salute them for that.”

In the first race of the day, four teams with two paddlers in each boat took to the water. The team of Anthony Cea and Matt Foreman representing the installation support directorate won the round in their yellow boat made to look like a bulldozer.

“We worked on this boat for the better part of a week,” Foreman said. “This was my first time doing the race and it was a lot of fun, but a lot harder than I expected.”

As the lead general engineer in the facility’s construction office, Foreman brought a technical expertise to the competition, but he credits his teammate’s passion for paddle boarding as the key to their success.

The most anticipated race of the day was the faceoff between the four branches of the military.

At the sound of the starting horn, the Navy team quickly ran into trouble and appeared unable to move forward. The Air Force team fared only slightly better, capsizing less than 20 feet from shore. With only the Army and Marine Corps boats making any forward progress, more than 200 spectators on the shore unleashed a barrage of balloons at the remaining boats.

Army Cols. Yee Hang and Dale Farrand ultimately won their heat in a simple canoe-shaped vessel as the Marine Corps boat piloted by Maj. Jason Crumbacher and Gunnery Sgt. Jason Conner crossed the finish line a full minute later.

A total of 11 boats entered the regatta, and after three rounds the winners of each race competed in the finals. The boats representing the Army, installation support, and the product testing laboratory all qualified for the last and final round.

Despite the sleekness of the Army’s entry and the onboard experience of installation support’s craft, the test lab’s aerodynamic pontoon-inspired boat easily took first place.   

The water balloons were available through a fundraiser for the agency’s Combined Federal Campaign in an initiative sponsored by the command directorate at Land and Maritime. Executive Programs Director Janet Bunnell said the water balloons generated $486 in donations to the CFC General Fund, versus $300 at last year’s regatta.

Other prizes were awarded in categories such as the Titanic Award for most dramatic sinking, People’s Choice Award for best design, and Spirit Award for best enthusiasm during the race.

The boats were all on display in the Operations Center in the days leading up to the race so associates could vote on their favorite design. A replica of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier built and paddled by Dan Hogue and Jim Spenn won the People’s Choice Award.

Following the races, the youngest and oldest Navy personnel in attendance used a military sword to slice the birthday cake, along with Navy Capts. Justin DeBord, director of Strategic Acquisition Programs and Brian Ginnane, director of Maritime Customer Operations.

John Taylor helped build the bulldozer-themed vessel and said that even though the boat didn’t win the most races, he was proud that it never sank. The vessel ultimately won the Spirit Award for the enthusiasm of its captains and supporters on the shore.

When asked his plans for the cardboard boat now that the races are finished, Taylor said he might just dry it off and save it for next year – if he can find a place to put it.