Armed Forces Championship Builds Camaraderie Among Services
By Dialogo May 09, 2011
After a long, hard-fought battle of the skills, the Armed Forces Championship basketball tournament came to an end at the Paige Fieldhouse, this past April at the Marine Corps base in Camp Pendleton, Calif.
The best selected players from all five services came from around the globe to compete in the men’s and women’s basketball tournament with the Air Force taking home the gold in both categories this past April. The men’s final score was 71-65 against the Army with the women’s Air Force team taking home a victory of 67-51 against the Army.
“It’s been a great tournament; every team is very well-matched and well-coached,” said Thomas Fisher, athletic director of the Semper Fit Division, Marine Corps Community Services. “Throughout the whole world, all the services have intramural teams or varsity teams, and from there they select their best players to go to a camp. From there they select who will move up to higher levels like this and compete against the other services.”
Throughout the duration of the tournament, warrior ethos on the court was comparable to any combat training environment. The competitive spirit was alive and well at Paige Fieldhouse.
“In team sports you’re fostering leadership, you ‘re fostering teamwork…you’re under adverse conditions,” said Fisher. “It’s not the same as combat, but as far as adversity, you can use what you do in athletics [in combat]. It’s a safe way of fostering leadership. “
All five services had something different to bring to the table, just as all five services have different, yet equally important missions.
“We’re all in the same fight; we’re all protecting freedoms for our country,” said Fisher. “It is good to come together and promote the fact that every service has a different mission and to compete against your fellow brothers and sisters is rewarding. This is a once in a lifetime experience.“
Despite their athletic ability and skills on the court, playing basketball isn’t an everyday job for these players. These service members come together once a year to compete for bragging rights.
“These are the best available performers,” said Fisher. “Some are deployed and aren’t able to compete. I’m just highly impressed with the players.”
It is important for players who are selected to perform at the best of their ability and enjoy their time being able to play, said Onyenma Nwaelele, guard from Seattle who is stationed at Kingston Air Force Base, Miss.
“To be a part of this is something special,” said Nwaelele. “I like interacting with people from all over the world one week a year. I’m just proud to be a part of something big…something special.”
The best players from all the men’s services will continue on to play at the World Championships in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 12 – 25 and the women will finalize the competition in Coco Beach, Fla.