It’s all about the 'team'

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol
  • U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center Public Affairs
It was a simple game of driveway basketball, but to me and Jeff Laessig -- it was a battle to beat the Titans.

My friend Jeff and I were one team taking on his older brother and his friend. We were only in our mid-teens and Jeff's brother and company were in their mid-20s. They were bigger than us, faster than us, and had a lot more skills than we did. In addition, they had about 10 years of basketball experience on us. But we were determined, if just this one time, to beat them at their own game.

Jeff and I were at a point of getting it all together. After losing probably 10 straight games to these two guys, we had figured out their weaknesses in shooting and their overall game. They were, essentially, where Jeff and I wanted to be as a basketball partnership. That day we made it there.

The game was close all the way to the end. The other guys looked worried. We'd been getting rebounds and making shots from the perimeter at a high percentage rate. They didn't realize that we practiced by playing several hours a day while they were drawing from experience and past skill.

In a game to 20, giving one point for each basket made, Jeff and I beat them, 20-19. It was the first time we'd ever got that far and it was only because they were caught by surprise and we shot amazingly well.

It was also because Jeff and I had come to a level where our teamwork had made a difference in accomplishing a goal - beating his brother and his brother's friend. Without the ability to work as a team, pass the ball and shoot when we needed to, we most likely would have lost.

Whether it's on a driveway playing basketball, in the Air Force, and life in general, it's all about the team. In all we do, we could not do what we do without our teammates doing their part.

For example, I recently sent a photo from a past deployment to a colonel who works in a KC-135 Stratotanker unit. The photo depicted six KC-135 maintenance technicians watching a KC-135 taxi down a runway in Southwest Asia at sunset. The colonel, a pilot, said they wanted to give the photo in a presentation to a maintenance group commander because as he said, "We couldn't do our jobs without the maintainers." Essentially, he recognizes the "team" is what makes the KC-135 fly -- not just the aircrew.

In the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center's Advanced Contingency Skills Training Course on Fort Dix, the instructors build all of the training around teamwork. They first discuss the fire team -- defined as a small unit of military infantry which for the Air Force is usually four Airmen.

Building from there, they put several fire teams together to make a squad and it's from that point they work on building this squad into an overall team. The Airmen learning these skills are not just security forces either. They are from public affairs, chapel, legal, air transportation, personnel, maintenance and numerous other career fields not thought of traditionally as Airmen taking the fight to the enemy on the ground.

"On the first day of ACST, when I'm doing my introduction as their instructor, I give them my expectations and I stress that they need to work as a team," said Staff Sgt. Paul Evans, security forces craftsman and ACST instructor with the center's 421st Combat Training Squadron. "Usually, after the second or third day of doing team building exercises, it clicks they are no longer in their Air Force specialty. They learn they are in an environment that requires a higher level of teamwork, situational awareness and a reliance on each other to complete the mission no matter how big or small."

In combat, Sergeant Evans said, these fire teams not only allow flexibility and strength, but also survivability. "A team can work together to bring everyone home safe and sound," he said. "An individual doing the same thing on his own has a significantly declined chance of surviving a combat situation." In other words, they probably don't survive.

In my current workcenter, I'm an active duty NCO while two other Airmen I work for and with are from the Air Force Reserve. We have a "Total Force" team.

There's not a week that goes by we don't have something big happening. Yet, despite limited time together, we meld our minds and complete some of the biggest projects imaginable. We communicate consistently and keep a level head.

Our environment fosters teamwork, which, as defined by the Air Force, means we have "a working environment that ensures trust, teamwork and pride in accomplishing the mission." It means, as a team, we have Airmen willing to "share their expertise with each other to become a cohesive team."

Whether winning a basketball game, flying an airplane, defeating an enemy in a combat situation, or completing a public affairs project, the results all have to be the same -- the team has to come together with each player contributing to the success of the end goal. It's all about the team.