By Tech. Sgt. Wes Wright
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — The 23rd Space Operations Squadron defeated the 6th Space Warning Squadron in the annual New England Space Cup, a golf tournament at Highfields Golf and Country Club in Grafton, Massachusetts, May 10.
While the 23rd SOPS was happy to go home with a trophy, they were even happier to avoid having to take home the ugly rug, a “hideous” symbol of defeat for the event’s losers. According to tradition, the rug must be prominently displayed in the losing squadron’s director of operation’s office until the next year’s tournament.
“The rug described as ugly is quite the understatement,” said Chris Lemay, power production mechanic with the 23rd SOPS. “Hideous seems more appropriate, however ugly has stuck for quite some time. Getting rid of the rug is more important than showcasing a trophy since the rug is usually the welcome mat to the commander’s office.”
The tournament and good natured ribbing associated with the ugly rug originated in 1999. The rug’s origins are shrouded in mystery but unit “historians” say it was created in 1979 and is loosely based on the 6th SWS’s unit patch, although the quality of the artwork has been deemed dubious at best.
Just how ugly the rug is seems to depend on who is asked.
“As a member of the 6th SWS, I don’t think it’s ugly,” said Lt. Col. Nathan Hippe, commander of 6th SWS. “I consider it a piece of our proud heritage.”
Tech. Sgt. Clint Yager, contracting officer’s representative flight chief with 23rd SOPS, has a stronger opinion.
“That rug is pretty ugly,” he said. “The last tournament we had was in 2016, which we lost, and [our director of operations] tells the story about how when took over as the DO just a couple weeks later and found the ugly rug in his office he was going to throw it away until he found out what it was. I don’t think he was too thrilled about having to look at that thing every day.”
With a rug so ugly, good natured trash talk is a big part of the tournament.
“I do like to utilize trash talk but mostly just to keep the spirits high,” Yager said. “Normally, it follows a bad shot by the opponent. However, during one instance, my opponent made a great shot and Colonel Holmes verbally praised him from the sideline. I then asked Colonel Holmes why he didn’t compliment my shots to which our DO quickly replied, ‘You need to hit one first.’”
While the players try to get under each other’s skin in a friendly way, according to attendees it points to a much stronger camaraderie between the two units.
“The camaraderie amongst our teammates and between the two separate units is always present,” Lemay said. “Team unity is just as important off the course and I believe we are all aware of that. Knowing we can lean on each at work just the same as on the course helps create a healthy and stable work environment.”
Holmes said he is happy his unit won but is even happier for the relationship the tournament allows him to build with his commander counterpart at the 6th SWS.
“Working as a team is vital to the success of the squadron,” Holmes said. “Participating in sporting events is a good way to learn how to work as a team and carries over into the work environment. [Colonel Hippe and I] are able to compare notes and build a relationship that will benefit us in the future.”
Hippe chose to be gracious in defeat and pointed to next year as a chance to balance the scales, as 23rd SOPS now leads the tournament history 8-7.
“It is definitely a friendly competition, and more importantly, a great opportunity to get to meet our fellow geographically separated unit Airmen stationed in New England,” Hippe said. “[The rug] serves as a reminder that we lost the tournament and is a motivator for scheduling the next tournament to redeem ourselves.”
The good natured ribbing for next year’s tournament has already begun between the two commanders.
“Of course I plan on giving him a hard time throughout the year,” Holmes said.
As Holmes wasn’t a participant in this year’s tournament, Hippe countered by pointing out the fact.
“I think we should make it mandatory for the squadron commander or director of operations to participate next year,” he said.
Yager summed up the day’s events.
“I think 23rd SOPS is a great place to work and you can tell that people genuinely enjoy each other’s company. Our folks like to cut up and have fun, and, for the most part, we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
While the 23rd SOPS revels in their victory, joyous to no longer have to see the ugly rug, Hippe and the 6th SWS have nothing but time to figure out how to give it back next year.