MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. --
Twelve of McConnell’s Airmen combined their time and efforts into the base basketball team, the McConnell Tornadoes.
The team represents the base by duking it out against 15 other Air Force and Army installation basketball teams from Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico and Missouri.
From personnel specialist to boom operators, each player has the same mission-oriented mindset when they throw on their blue and white jerseys as they do while wearing the Airman Battle Uniform or flight-suits.
“You have to work as a unit out there,” said Tech. Sgt. Tyrone Saunders, 22nd Force Support Squadron career development NCO-in-charge, player and coach. “In basketball, the team has the same objective; we’re all trying to execute the same defense and offense.”
Communication is key in being effective on the job and on the court, claimed Saunders.
“Just like operating the mission, using your communication skills will definitely help the situation out there,” he said. “Speaking, listening and taking it all in and applying it every possession [is critical].”
Developing skills and learning how to best cooperate together on the court has proven to be challenging; fortunately, several of the teammates have spent the last two to three years on the team.
“You have to be well-rounded to be effective,” said Senior Airman Charles Johnson, 22nd Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler and player. “[Because] it is a combination of using your mind as well as your body, reading offenses and defenses and [having the ability to shut them down]. These guys work hard every day practicing and perfecting their craft, then to go on the road play in games and tournaments to represent the base is awesome.”
The team usually travels to play every other weekend to compete against three teams twice each for a total of six games.
The team trains seriously, but their aspirations for the game and personalities make for a fun, friendly environment.
“I have a bunch of goofballs,” described Saunders. “They pick on each other and [provide] comedy relief -- I have a great group of guys here that are dedicated to the team.”
The season begins in October and ends in April, followed by a conference tournament of all 16 teams within the region.
“They know what is expected and perform to the best of their capabilities, which is all I can ask for as a coach,” said Saunders. “We will see where the chips will fall.”
Win or lose the team pulls together, goes out and fights to represent McConnell, said Johnson.