During three Army tours in Iraq, Col. Kevin Felix trained several Iraqi battalions on the battlefield. Yesterday afternoon on the Charles River, Felix and several other U.S. military veterans were on the receiving end of training from eight members of Iraq’s national rowing team, in town for this weekend’s Head of the Charles Regatta.
“It’s nice to get something in return, certainly in a different perspective and in a different way,” Felix said at Community Rowing in Brighton. “We call it the field of friendly strife, being out there doing any kind of athletics or competition. It was tremendous.
“It’s just the beginning of full partnerships of the countries we work with, the countries we support and the countries we’re fighting with and for.”
The Iraqis, who are preparing for the 2010 Asian Games and 2012 Summer Olympics in London, however, do their best to separate sports and politics.
“That’s our plan, that’s our idea, we come here just for sports,” Haidar Rashid said. “It’s just sports for us. We teach them some rowing and some sport, we had fun with them.”
Felix said the biggest challenge on the water was being in sync with his teammates. He said it’s hard to compare it to anything he’s done in the Army.
“This was pleasure, this was enjoyment, I wouldn’t even put in that same category,” he said, before adding, “It’s still rigorous. Anything that requires lots of stamina, endurance and concentration compares — whether it’s on the field or it’s in a stressful situation.”