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Army National Guard Uniforms Offer New Twist For Football
Uniforms 9-7
Breaking through the banner as they enter Engel Field on Friday night, Sept. 2, the Escalon varsity Cougars were the first team in the state to wear the special California Army National Guard camouflage uniform jerseys, which have been made available to loan out to teams in the Golden State. Marg Jackson/The Times

When the Escalon varsity football team burst through their ‘Cougars’ banner to enter Engel Field for Friday night’s non-league game, they had a brand-new look.

That look, camouflage jerseys, came courtesy of the California Army National Guard, which has a program for loaning the specialty uniforms to a variety of high school sports teams.

The Cougars were the first in the state to wear them.

“It’s just something we provide to local high schools, so we have one set of uniforms for the North, one for southern California, so what this is, it’s just kind of a way to give back to schools and make games more exciting, something a little bit different, you know just change it up a little bit,” said SFC Nick Barragan, one of the California Army National Guard members on hand for the Friday night game. “There’s no requirements behind it, just a team that wants to use them; we don’t ask anything in return, just that they return the jerseys clean.”

The uniforms had the traditional jersey numbers on the back and the California Army National Guard logo on the front.

“The idea behind it is we understand there are a lot of schools out there who do support the military, who are very patriotic and we do want to get back and let people, let communities know that that doesn’t go unnoticed,” Barragan added.

He contacted head coach Andrew Beam earlier in the week, after his office was contacted by someone asking about the possibility of using the National Guard uniforms in Escalon.

It worked out, and the Cougars made a little bit of history.

“I brought my whole team down for this one, it’s the first time the jerseys have ever been used,” Barragan said of having several staff members from their Roseville National Guard office in Escalon for the Friday night festivities. “I’ve had them for almost a year and I couldn’t believe that no one wanted to use them. When Escalon approached me about it, we brought everybody out here.”

Barragan said it was also a good opportunity for the community to learn more about the National Guard, which is a community-based military asset and can be called on to assist with everything from fire evacuations to flooding situations.

There are several sets of uniforms that can be loaned out for sports including soccer, basketball, softball, baseball, volleyball and football.

“We’re very excited about it; it worked out great,” Barragan said of the inaugural wearing of the National Guard jerseys. “Escalon’s a good program, we obviously research the schools before; a great program, the coaching staff is amazing, we’ve met several staff members, a very good experience, very pleasant experience, we’ve enjoyed the whole time we’ve been here.”

Beam agreed that it was a unique experience for the players and fans.

“We were extremely honored to represent the California Army National Guard. The uniforms were a fun twist to our traditional looks and we are appreciative of all of those that serve our country,” Beam explained.

He added that they will look into having several other Escalon teams use the Army National Guard jerseys during their upcoming seasons.