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NEWS | Dec. 1, 2015

Shortening the distance between Airmen and Soldiers

By Airman 1st Class Derek Seifert 633rd Air Base Wing Publilc Affairs

For the first time, since the inception of Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, the varsity basketball team, JBLE Raptors, will compete with both U.S. Airmen and Soldiers.

The 12 Airmen and six Soldiers, all of who are set to participate in the Washington Area Military Athletic Conference are one of four joint base teams to compete in the WAMAC this season.

According to Staff Sgt. Casandra Bernhardt, 633rd Force Support Squadron, JBLE's varsity basketball program gives Service members the opportunity to build a stronger relationship with their joint base counterparts, which in turn, builds a better sense of respect and camaraderie.

Raptors team captain, Staff Sgt. Marshawn Martin, 358th Automatic Cargo Detachment says, he appreciates the opportunity to join forces with Air Force personnel, since many others may never get the chance, however it still brings challenges.

"You don't get this opportunity to work with Air Force personnel, especially at Fort Eustis, so to come new to a team that's already established and try to make a name for yourself is difficult," said Martin. "I just want to be productive and help my teammates understand their roles."

Building personal relationships outside of work and basketball is an important aspect of sports that Airman 1st Class Dakota, 36th Intelligence Squadron, strives for with his teammates to overcome trials like communication and language barriers between services.

"We're coming together as a team and the hardest thing to do is to get the chemistry right and that's something we work on day in and day out," said Dakota. "We're all learning the plays while getting to know each other. We play cards and hang out to get a feel for each other outside of basketball."

Langley Air Force Base and Fort Eustis merged on Jan. 29, 2010, and are 19 miles apart but the services have proven that distance and time does not matter when they work together.

"From the ground to the skies, we get to work with every armed forces service," said Dakota. "Being able to work together on the basketball court, shows that we can work together from something very small to something very big and how much we like
playing with one another."

The Raptors competed in the first tournament of the season during the weekend of Nov. 7th and 8th playing teams from Fort Drum, New York; Fort Myers, Virginia and Fort Meade, Maryland. After a tough start due to a short staff, the Raptors finished the weekend with two wins and two loses said Martin.

"As a team we had the opportunity to display our toughness, cardio and will to not give up," said Martin. "It was fun getting the chance to compete against other teams."

For Dakota, playing with Soldiers from Fort Eustis is an example of what the U.S. military exemplifies.

"We defend one nation," said Dakota. "It's one team one fight and it shows that its one team no matter what, we have the same goal and we'll come together to accomplish it."