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Air Force basketball team returns to Patrick

2nd Lt. Andrea Taylor tries to get past Senior Airman Richere Harrison during practice for the Air Force Women's Basketball Team at the Patrick Fitness Center April 30. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Lisa Luse)

2nd Lt. Andrea Taylor tries to get past Senior Airman Richere Harrison during practice for the Air Force Women's Basketball Team at the Patrick Fitness Center April 30. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Lisa Luse)

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The Patrick Air Force Base Fitness Center is the base camp for 15 female Airmen who are in training for the 2009 Armed Forces Basketball Championship.

These players are from bases throughout the country and the world, including one Airman assigned to Misawa Air Base, Japan.

The Armed Forces Championship consists of six games to determine the overall basketball champions from all branches of the Armed Forces.

The championship will be held later this month at the Naval Station in Millington, Tenn.
"We have very talented individuals from all across the country, six to seven different Air Force bases," said Head Coach Tech. Sgt. Darryl Carpenter, from Travis AFB, Calif. The team has a very competitive spirit, in addition to determination, drive and love of the game to be very successful, he added.

Some of these basketball players have been honing their skills since they were toddlers. In addition, some had attended colleges with full basketball scholarships.

"I was on a full basketball scholarship at Rutgers College, New Jersey," said Senior Airman Tish Johnson, from the 9th Security Forces Squadron at Beale AFB, Calif. She chose to join the Air Force in hopes of being on the basketball team that is crowned the champions of the combined forces competition.

"It is an honor to be here, not everyone made the team," said Airman Johnson. "There have been two cuts in the team so far. We started out with 23 candidates and we are down to 15 recruits.

"Everyone is hungry to be in the competition and wants to represent our service."
Airman Johnson was hand-picked among her fellow basketball players to be one of two team captains. The Louisiana native was chosen to lead the women among other players who vary in levels of leadership. There are two officers that are on the team and the remaining are enlisted members.

"It just goes to show that there is a shared respect for each other. We have different backgrounds and experience levels and have put aside our egos to come together to win," said Airman Johnson.

"I feel privileged to be here," said 2nd Lt. Monica Mason, from the 325th Maintenance Squadron at Tyndall AFB, Fla. "There is a lot of energy generated during our workouts. We have the same goal which creates the perfect chemistry to accomplish what we're here to do." Both Johnson and Mason are team captains.

"There is a lot of humor and fun along with the intense work-outs," said Lieutenant Mason. "This is a great group of girls and I have no doubt we will meet the challenge during the games. Everyone on this team has great talent."