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Canada clobbers U.S. at 23rd annual game

Between air defense and charity work, there's always time for hockey

Oh, for puck’s sake! The Canucks pummeled Uncle Sam at this year’s WADS CANAM Hockey Classic, but it was for a good cause. Photo credit: Capt. Kimberly D. Burke

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I've said before that we only sleep soundly at night because of "rough men (and women)" who watch over us, and the servicemembers of the Western Air Defense Sector (WADS) based out of Joint-Base Lewis-McChord are a prime example of these brave people doing what they do best.

WADS is the largest of three sectors working under the Continental U.S. North American Area Defense Region-First Air Force (CONR-1AF) and NORAD. The team - made up of both U.S. and Canadian service personnel and civilians - provides surveillance and defense of the friendly skies in case they ever become unfriendly. These patriots even protected THE Patriots, patrolling the skies around Houston's MGR Stadium during this year's Super Bowl.

The 24/7/365 job carries a lot of responsibility and stress, but that doesn't mean that WADS personnel don't know how to have fun. Last Saturday, the American and Canadian branches faced off in the 23rd Annual WADS CANAM Hockey Classic at Sprinker Recreation Center in Spanaway. Not surprisingly, the Canadian detachment one every single game to date and carved another notch in their hockey sticks this year, beating the U.S. team 8 to 1.

"It was a slaughter, but all in good fun," said WADS public affairs officer Capt. Kimberly D. Burke.

The U.S. scored their goal early in the game, and Burke credits the U.S. team's narrow defeat to goalie and team MVP Master Sgt. Ty Henrichsmeyer.

"He's why the (split) wasn't bigger," Burke chuckled.

Our neighbors to the Great White North understandably have a bit of an advantage when it comes to Canada's national pastime, but turnabout is fair play. The two teams will square off again for their annual softball game in September - an event which typically sees victory going to the U.S. team.

One of two sectors in the continental U.S. that make up NORAD's surveillance capabilities, WADS personnel detect, identify and track unknown or threatening objects in our airspace - and if necessary they can scramble fighter jets to remove them. But keeping us safe from airborne harm is only the beginning of WADS' philanthropic activities.

Proceeds from the annual hockey and softball games go to charity. This year, WADS raised $527 for Habitat for Humanity. Members of the Canadian detachment also regularly volunteer with the nonprofit, helping to build affordable, quality housing.

Stateside, WADS works closely with the Puyallup food bank and other charities, volunteering and organizing donation drives for food, warm clothing and other essentials.

Formerly a division of the active Air Force, the Air National Guard absorbed WADS in 1997. As a result, its staff primarily consists of Guard members and civilians rather than active-duty military personnel. As such, staff members aren't likely to be transferred away from home, allowing them to become - or in most cases remain - active members in their communities.

"Most of our members are also heavily involved in other charities outside of what WADS does," Burke said.

Each team's hockey and/or softball skills notwithstanding, these are what heroes look like.

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