U.S. Naval Support Activity Souda Bay, Greece, hosted its 18th Eco-Challenge, an annual outdoor sports competition that builds camaraderie and strengthens the U.S. relationship with NATO and Hellenic military partners.
Ten teams accepted this year’s challenge, with athletes from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, British Royal Air Force, Hellenic Navy, Hellenic Air Force, NATO Missile Firing Installation, and NATO Maritime Interdiction Training Center competing Sept. 7. Individuals from each five-member team participated in one of five events held across Crete’s Akrotiri Peninsula, which is home to NSA Souda Bay: the 10.4-kilometer hike, 14.5-kilometer run, 38.5-kilometer bike, 4.3-kilometer kayak, or 2,000-meter swim.
Byron Gale, NSA Souda Bay’s fitness center director, said the spirit of the event is not just about winning, but also is about bringing people together. “It’s about the teamwork of five people completing events together — events that maybe they didn’t believe they could do before, but their team gives them the encouragement to finish,” he said. “And it’s about Team Souda, our host-nation military, and our local community working behind the scenes to make it happen, which is special to watch.”
The athletes were not the only participants relying on teamwork for a safe and successful outcome. Partner organizations such as the Hellenic Air Force, Hellenic Navy and NATO Missile Firing Installation provided ambulances, doctors and rescue divers. The Hellenic Police stopped traffic and provided escort vehicles during the bike and run events, while the local Hellenic Navy emergency room had doctors standing by to assist.
The fitness center staff took care of the athletes’ health and safety leading up to the event by providing workout routines designed specifically for each event and riding the routes with the participants. During the event, they provided drinks, food, and energy gel at each station.
NSA Souda Bay Commanding Officer Navy Capt. Ryan T. Tewell tackled the bike portion of the challenge. He noted the event is about more than just the competition between the military organizations on Crete.
“It’s a symbol of the cooperation and the coordination that happens every single day here on the Akrotiri Peninsula between the Hellenic Navy, the Hellenic Air Force, two NATO organizations and NSA Souda Bay,” Tewell said. “It’s one of my favorite things every year, and I am honored to participate.”
1. Service members of the NATO Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Centre. Time: 4:47:41
2. Service members of the 115th Combat Wing, Hellenic Air Force. Time: 4:51:52
3. Service members of the Hellenic Naval Base in Souda. Time: 5:05:01
Individual Athlete Awards:
14.5km Run: Michael McCarroll (NSA Souda Bay, Team: Souda Striders). Time: 1:03:05
4.3km Kayak: Dan Shirley (NSA Souda Bay, Team: Souda Striders). Time: 0:28:072000m
2000m Swim: Konstantinos Tsopanikos (NSA Souda Bay, Team: Fire Department). Time: 0:28:21
38.5 km Cycling: Ioannis Zentelis, service member of 115th Combat Wing. Time: 1:14:09
10.4km Hiking: Ioannis Belesis, service member of NMIOTC. Time: 1:04:09
Outstanding Achievement Award: Jeremy Lim (NSA Souda Bay, Team: Souda Crab Meat). Times: 14.5km Run: 1:16:52, 2000m Swim: 0:32:29