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Defending Champs and Lambert defeat Space Balls to win second bocce title

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., -- Capt. Justen Chilbert throws his bocce ball during a combat bocce ball tournament at the 392nd training squadron.The combat bocce ball tournament is a low-impact, high smack-talk morale booster. Having events that raise morale is vitally important to keep up the efficiency and productivity of todays combat Airman. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nathaniel Prost)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., -- Capt. Justen Chilbert throws his bocce ball during a combat bocce ball tournament at the 392nd training squadron.The combat bocce ball tournament is a low-impact, high smack-talk morale booster. Having events that raise morale is vitally important to keep up the efficiency and productivity of todays combat Airman. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nathaniel Prost)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., -- Capt. Justen Chilbert throws his bocce ball during a combat bocce ball tournament at the 392nd training squadron.The combat bocce ball tournament is a low-impact, high smack-talk morale booster. Having events that raise morale is vitally important to keep up the efficiency and productivity of todays combat Airman. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nathaniel Prost)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., -- Capt. Justen Chilbert throws his bocce ball during a combat bocce ball tournament at the 392nd training squadron.The combat bocce ball tournament is a low-impact, high smack-talk morale booster. Having events that raise morale is vitally important to keep up the efficiency and productivity of todays combat Airman. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nathaniel Prost)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., -- Capt. Richard Maze throws his bocce ball during a combat bocce ball tournament at the 392nd training squadron.The combat bocce ball tournament is a low-impact, high smack-talk morale booster. Having events that raise morale is vitally important to keep up the efficiency and productivity of todays combat Airman. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nathaniel Prost)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., -- Capt. Richard Maze throws his bocce ball during a combat bocce ball tournament at the 392nd training squadron.The combat bocce ball tournament is a low-impact, high smack-talk morale booster. Having events that raise morale is vitally important to keep up the efficiency and productivity of todays combat Airman. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nathaniel Prost)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The Defending Champs and Lambert (yes that's their name) defended their title against the Space Balls, with a score of 22-17, in the championship match of the 2nd Annual 392nd Training Squadron Combat Bocce Ball Tournament.

The Defending Champs and Lambert gained bragging rights for the next 365 days along with a 1st place trophy and each player received a wine tasting basket.

Just like the game of bocce, on which combat bocce is based, two teams of four square off and one side throws, or bowls, a baseball-sized resin or wood target ball within the boundaries of a field. Then the teams bowl softball-sized ceramic balls and try to get closer to the target than their opponents, even by knocking the opponents balls away from the target. But that's where the similarities to bocce, or its cousin lawn bowling, end.

Combat bocce is a unique interpretation of the lawn game. It adopts military terminology, so the team is a squad, a ball is called a round and the field is an area-of-responsibility. Bowling is called deployment of the target and the target area is called the demilitarized zone. Instead of a field shaped like an alley, the combat bocce field of fire is a cross shape, and the players, or combatants, divide to play long-way and laterally at the same time.

One call the referees made often during the event was a term borrowed from the 392nd TRS.

The referees called weak-sauce when combatants makes a poor attempt, like when a they try to deploy the target to the demilitarized zone, or bowl the ball into a 100-square-foot plot, but fail.

"If you can't get the ball in that 100-square-foot area, that's a weak-sauce attempt," said Capt. James Pitney, one of the event's coordinators.

Team Space Balls, which captured second place in the event, received a bocce ball set. The third place team received a gift certificate for dinner at a local restaurant. Even if bocce was not their game, the event was designed with fun in mind.

"This event is intended for nothing but fun," said Capt. J.R. Smith, co-coordinator of the tournament. "It is a great experience to boost the morale of the squadron."

The large turnout has people looking forward to next year.

"I was very pleased with the turnout. We had 22 four person teams competing in this year's tournament," Captain Smith said. "It will be interesting to see how this thing continues to grow."

The knowledge of the Santa Maria Lawn Bowling Club adds an aspect of authenticity to the event.

The difference between bocce and lawn bowling is the finesse and skill that lawn bowling requires, said Mrs. Linda Graham, a woman with over 40 years of lawn bowling experience. "There are some good players out here, but none that would be much of a challenge at lawn bowling," she added with a smile.

Even so, the unique rules and terminology makes combat bocce a special game for Vandenberg's combat Airmen. With the losers looking ahead to next year, and the winners raising their trophy high, the tournament revealed one thing--combat bocce ball isn't plain-old lawn bowling.