Gunfighter Airmen give back to community through basketball

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Tyrell Hall
  • 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
It’s always good to have Airmen who set their eyes on giving back. Senior Airman Aarien Foster, 366th Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft structural maintenance journeyman, used his passion for basketball and skills as a leader to start a basketball program in order to bring the Gunfighter community together.

Foster launched the plan to assemble a team after arriving to Mountain Home AFB and learning they didn’t have one.

Previously, Foster played basketball while stationed at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, where he led a group of 15 Airmen in multiple sports feats and competitions.

“We had enough players to be split up into two teams,” Foster said. “During our first tournament our second team finished as runner-up to a very talented team there.”

More accomplishments of the Ramstein AB team include helping the U.S. Armed-Forces Basketball Team train for the SHAPE tournament in Belgium and placing second in a tournament at U.S. Army Garrison Benelux-Schinnen, Netherlands.

The team is composed of members from multiple U.S. Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines. The members are hand-selected at the Armed Forces Classic, a basketball showcase where each team has the opportunity to play against each other for bragging rights.

As for the SHAPE tournament, it consists of military teams from all over the world competing in an Olympics-style setting to determine who has the best military basketball team.

Foster said the official formation of the basketball team at Mountain Home AFB happened when he reunited with Tech. Sgt. Sean Collin, 726th Air Control Squadron NCOIC of weapons and tactics, whom he met while stationed in Germany.

“Sergeant Collin asked me if I was starting a basketball team here,” Foster said. “I told him that I was trying but it’s hard to do alone and without a coach. From there he was immediately on board.”

Foster described their reunion as ‘perfect timing’. He also expressed they both champion giving back to the community in any way.

As word spread about the program, more Airmen approached Foster with questions about the team, including Airman 1st Class Brandon Taylor, 366th Maintenance Squadron aerospace ground equipment ranger.

“I met Taylor during the intramural season here,” Foster said. “We both played basketball for the 366th EMS. I told him I was trying to start a team, offered him a spot as a coach and he jumped on board.”

Taylor explained even though he had never coached basketball before, he was eager to step up and support Foster’s vision for the team. Taylor had leadership experience stemming from his previous service on the base honor guard as flight lead.

“It was a phenomenal experience because basketball is the only sport I actually fell in love with,” Taylor said. “My previous leadership roles helped me when it came to working with the many different personalities, skill sets and attitudes on the team.”

From there the basketball scene erupted. He named the team after the blanket call sign adopted by all Airmen in the 366th FW; the Mountain Home Air Force Base Gunfighters.

In their first game the Gunfighters faced off with a team made of players who’ve played overseas such as China and Germany. It also consisted of college players and players who participated in the National Basketball Association’s development league.

“We met the team while playing at a gym in Meridian, Idaho, called ‘Homecourt’,” he said. “This game was their first time being on a military base and getting a glimpse into what our world is like as servicemembers. It’s a good example of how sports can build partnerships.”

During the match, Foster displayed leadership and resolve, guiding his team to take the lead early in the game.

“I noticed he was a heck of a leader,” Taylor said. “He knows how to see the playing field in a way that helps his fellow teammates while maintaining his personal skill.”

The game was hard-fought and he was pleased with how the Gunfighters played all four quarters of the game.

Foster explained even though the scrimmage was a competitive and important game to both teams, they still hold a strong bond with the team they met at Homecourt. In fact, many people came out to support both sides on game day.

“It was great to see the amount of support we received even in this small community,” Foster said. “And the best part was that the 366th Fighter Wing Command Chief, Chief Master Sgt. Wendell Snider, made an appearance and cheered us on.”

On top of building relationships, Foster explained having an outlet such as the basketball team emphasizes a resiliency aspect.

“It gives us a chance to express ourselves outside of our workplace,” Foster said. “It offers us a break from life’s stresses and keeps us fit, which is part of our four pillars of Comprehensive Airmen Fitness.