Airman competes at Air Force level

Yokota Air Base, Japan -- The anticipation builds up as the ball travels down the lane to meet the pins in a glorious collision… Strike! The ‘X’ appearing on the scoreboard is what most us hope we are lucky enough to see when we go bowling.

However, there are those like Tech. Sgt. Chuck Kropog, 374th Civil Engineer Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of service contracts, that don’t require quite as much luck when bowling.

“My mom and my dad met in a bowling center in Jacksonville, Florida,”said Kropog. “Pretty much since the time I was born I have been in a bowling center one way, shape or form.”

“I joined the Air Force over 16 years ago, said Kropog.”

A misconception amongst service members is that their military service puts their competitive sports aspirations on the backburner.

“I have bowled in 21 consecutive national bowling tournaments dating back to 1996, said Kropog. “So for those who think they can’t compete, regardless of the sport, they still can.”

More than 40 applicants applied for the Air Force Bowling Team this year. 24 of which were given the opportunity to try out for the team. At the conclusion of the tryouts four women and four men were selected for the team.

“Tomodachi Lanes is a first-class bowling center,” said Kropog. “Once they found out that I was trying out for the team, they asked me what the oil patterns for the lanes would be. You don’t just bowl on a typical oil pattern, you bowl on what the professionals would. They set those patterns out for me.”

Oil patterns on bowling lanes originated as a way to protect the surface of the lane. Different oil patterns affect the way the ball travels and curves.

“During those tournaments they change the oil patterns, said Chong Pak, Tomodachi Lanes operation supervisor. “He gave me four different oil patterns so he can roll before he goes there so he knows which ball is the best fit for that condition. Although it might be the same exact pattern, different house, it reacts differently.”

In addition to preparing the lanes for him to practice on, Kropog received helpful advice from those who know the sport well.

“They also have a Japanese professional bowler, Takashi Kudoh that works here in the pro shop,” said Kropog. “He would come out when I would bowl and give me pointers and give me his expertise. Mr. Ken Young and Mr. Chong Pak, the managers of the facility, would come out and give me their expertise, their advice and offered their facility opened to me whenever I needed the opportunity to come practice and prepare myself.”

The accomplishment of making the Air Force team and participating in the Armed Forces Bowling Championships doesn’t prevent Kropog from remembering what it is he does for his country every day as he directs 10 personnel, manages 37 sustainment service contracts, and oversees 259 contractors that support 1,100 facilities.

“Having the opportunity to go out and unwind and bowl with some friends and some coworkers is great but you still don’t lose fact of what our common goal is every day, to support and defend our country,” said Kropog.

Participating in the 2017 Armed Forces Bowling Championships is far from the final chapter of his love for the sport of bowling.

“As an avid bowler you want to try a couple professional tournaments just to see where you stand,” said Kropog. “You never know, you might get a couple of breaks here and there and may do well.”

Kropog’s goals for bowling extends beyond future competition, as he wishes to share his knowledge with a new generation of bowlers.

“I want to coach,” said Kropog. “The youth bowling program needs to grow. It is just like any other sport, the youth is our future. Without that and without coaching and leagues for them the sport is eventually going to die, numbers are going to drop. That is one thing I would definitely like to get out to everyone here at Yokota is we have an awesome facility here.”