Sofia, 6-year-old daughter of Maj. Victor Doncenco from Moldova, works on landing her fish during the International Family Fishing Derby Sept. 11 at Merritt Lake. Doncenco is an international military student in the Command and General Staff Officer Course Class of 2022. Photo by Mark Wiggins/Command and General Staff College Foundation

Mark H. Wiggins | Command and General Staff College Foundation

Nine-year-old Juuy Etman, daughter of Lt. Col. Ahmed Etman, an Egyptian army officer in the Command and General Staff Officer Course Class of 2022, reaches for a fish she caught during the International Family Fishing Derby Sept. 11 at Merritt Lake. Photo by Mark Wiggins/Command and General Staff College Foundation

The Fort Leavenworth Rod and Gun Club hosted the first International Family Fishing Derby Sept. 11 at Merritt Lake. The event was open to everyone but was specifically for Command and General Staff Officer Course international students and their families.

“This derby is the result of a conversation between Jim Fain, director of the (Command and General Staff College) International (Military) Student Division, and me,” said Larry Noell, president of the Rod and Gun Club. “We felt it was a great opportunity to teach the participants a bit about the sport and bring them together with us in a family atmosphere.”

Noell said the Rod and Gun Club has host-ed fishing derbies before, but none were focused on bringing out the international families that are at Fort Leavenworth each year for CGSOC.“

This event allows us to show our inter-national families a piece of Americana,” said Rod Cox, CGSC Foundation president/CEO, “and it fits well within the foundation’s mission of supporting soldiers and families.”

Italian Maj. Gaetano Robustelli, Command and General Staff Officer Course student, and his 6-year-old son, Leonardo, fish off the dock during the International Family Fishing Derby Sept. 11 at Merritt Lake. Photo by Mark Wiggins/Command and General Staff College Foundation

The derby was supported by volunteers from Fishing’s Future, a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching the skills and benefits of recreational angling, and the Leavenworth Bass Club. The CGSC Foundation sponsored the derby with fishing bait and concessions.

According to Noell, 123 registered participants representing 34 countries took part in the derby.

“This is the first fish I’ve ever caught,” said Maj. Yu-yung Chiu, a Taiwanese army officer attending CGSOC, as she held up the catfish she had just reeled in. “And this is very fun.”

That spirit of fun was visible all around the lake with families and their children lining the docks and the banks trying out their new-found casting skills, getting over the squeamishness of baiting their hooks with worms, catching the elusive “stick bass” and ultimately reeling in their catch.

Larry Noell, right, president of the Fort Leavenworth Rod and Gun Club, gathers participants of the International Family Fishing Derby together for the awards ceremony Sept. 11 at Merritt Lake. The Rod and Gun Club hosted the event with help from volunteers from Fishing’s Future and the Leavenworth Bass Club. The Command and General Staff College Foundation sponsored the derby with fishing bait and concessions. Photo by Mark Wiggins/Command and General Staff College Foundation

Before the families began fishing, volunteer instructors from Fishing’s Future provided classes on various aspects of fishing, including how to identify fish species, how to handle fish once caught and how to cast with a closed-face reel.

Once the fishing began, volunteers from the Leavenworth Bass Club pitched in to help solve problems, reinforce casting techniques, bait hooks and cheer the participants on.

DaNae Estabine, a volunteer with Fishing’s Future, teaches children of international students attending the Command and General Staff Officer Course how to handle fish once they’re caught so that they can be released back to the water during the International Family Fishing Derby Sept. 11 at Merritt Lake. The Fort Leavenworth Rod and Gun Club hosted the event with help from volunteers from Fishing’s Future and the Leavenworth Bass Club. The Command and General Staff College Foundation sponsored the derby with fishing bait and concessions. Photo by Mark Wiggins/Command and General Staff College Foundation

At the end of the fishing period Noell gathered up all the participants and presented first- and second-place awards in four divisions: male youth, female youth and male and female adult. Winners were determined first by number of fish caught and then length of the fish, so the rule of the day was to haul in as many as possible, no matter the size.

Award winners received a new rod and reel combination from Fishing’s Future instructor Bill Horvath.

International Family Fishing Derby winners

1st place male youth division: Aleksander Ninov, son of international CGSOC student Maj. Vladimir Ninov from Bulgaria

2nd place male youth division: Ramazi Batsilzvdze, son of interna-
tional CGSOC student Maj. Vakhtangi Batsikadze from Georgia

1st place female youth division: Brooklyn Burridge, daughter of international CGSOC student Maj. William Burridge from Canada

2nd place female youth division: Isabel Villarreal, daughter of international CGSOC student Lt. Col. Rolando Villarreal from Panama

1st place adult female division: Lenka Sobcakova, wife of international CGSOC student Maj. Marian Sobcak from Slovakia

2nd place adult female division: Maria Ninova, wife of international
CGSOC student Maj. Vladimir Ninov from Bulgaria

1st place adult male division: Maj. Vladimir Ninov, international CGSOC student from Bulgaria

2nd place adult male division: Lt. Col. Rolando Villarreal, international
CGSOC student from Panama

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