ZAGREB, Croatia (TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) – During the duty day at Operation Immediate Response, he can be found issuing water, in processing personnel or even passing out laundry bundles to U.S. soldiers and service members from the Balkan region of Europe. In the evening, when the computers are powered down and the exercise is on pause, he builds international bonds by engaging in a European pastime, soccer.
U.S. Army Spc. Fausto F. Jimenez, the Operation Immediate Response 13 mayor's cell in and out processing clerk, a human resources specialist assigned to the 21st Theater Sustainment Command's 16th Sustainment Brigade headquarters located in Baumholder, Germany, and a native of Tyler, Texas, plays soccer with military members from the U.S., Croatia and the U.K. at Petar Zrinski Barracks.
Jimenez says that soccer has been his favorite sport and hobby since he was seven years old. At the conclusion of his first duty day, he immediately began asking Croatian soldiers if they played soccer. They told him where to go and have been playing as often as possible since.
"When I came to the exercise I just started asking people if anyone here played soccer and nearly everyone I asked said yes," Jimenez said. "They told me about their indoor soccer field and we started playing almost every night."
Due to the varying work schedules of each nation, the players involved in the soccer game changes every evening. Jimenez, however, has been a constant member on the field and has earned the respect of the other players.
"He plays football [soccer] incredibly well, especially for an American," says Croatian army Cpl. Joseph Oreskovic, a signalman that plays soccer with Jimenez, with a smile. "We know in America you have your own football that is your favorite sport, but here he is very good at our football."
Each player has his own military mission in Immediate Response and most of them interact everyday while wearing their uniforms. Many of them believe that it is important to continue building bonds even after the duty day is over.
"It's nice to come out here after work and play football together. Playing with our partners from Slovenia, the U.S. and Croatia and anyone else who shows up really pays dividends," said British army Sgt. Peter A. Stubbs, a signal platoon sergeant. "The job reality is that we may all see each other again in a combat situation, the bond will be stronger when that time comes because of things like this."
When Jimenez played soccer in high school and at Central Baptist College in Conway, Ark., he never thought it would lead to him sharing the field with military members from around the world.
"Playing out here, I feel like I am making friends for life," said Jimenez. "I see these guys every day at work during the exercise, but it's out here on the field that I really got the know them."