Varsity basketball team strengthens military and community bond

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Cortney Paxton
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
With the power of camaraderie, stress-relieving qualities of physical activity and the all-around fun of healthy competition, sports are a common "go-to" for Airmen all over Malmstrom Air Force Base. But two members of Team Malmstrom wanted to take one sport - the game of basketball - to a whole new level.

Tech. Sgt. Khalil Gatlin, 341st Force Support Squadron force management NCO in charge, and Mark Greene, Malmstrom dependant, took matters into their own hands when they felt the need for a new twist on basketball. Acting as the head coach and assistant coach, Gatlin and Greene set out to develop a Varsity Basketball Team for Malmstrom - one that would compete amongst colleges within the Tribal Basketball Association.

Now, after dedication from the coaches and a little help from the community, Malmstrom has become one of 10 basketball teams within the Tribal Basketball Association. These other nine schools, and their locations, are:

· Aaniih Nakoda College - Harlem, Mont.
· Stone Child College - Elder, Mont.
· Chief Dull Knife College - Lame Deer, Mont.
· Fort Peck Community College - Roosevelt, Mont.
· Blackfeet Community College - Browning, Mont.
· Salish Kootenai College - Pablo, Mont.
· Montana State University - Bozeman, Mont.
· Little Big Horn College - Crow Agency, Mont.
· Miles City Community College - Miles City, Mont.

"Gatlin came to me and mentioned that he needed a coach," Greene said. "I had played previously due to my retirement from the Army; I played on base teams every base that I was at, so I pretty much knew the concept of going out and reaching out to the coaches of the community. Via email, I reached out to one person - Leann Montes, who is the Attorney General for the Tribal Basketball Association and just through talking to her ... she put schools out there and I just picked up the phone and she put my name out ... That just opened up the door for all of these schools to start communicating back with me. That's how we've gotten affiliated with all of these schools."

While reaching out to the basketball teams throughout different Montana communities, the coaches focused their attention on forming Malmstrom's team. They held tryouts for men on base, and soon formed a team of 17 athletes. But athletes weren't the only people Gatlin and Greene were trying to inspire.

"On this men's varsity basketball team, we wanted to be known as going well beyond the aspect of playing the game of basketball," Gatlin said. "The ultimate goal is to make bigger and better leaders especially since we do have officers on the team. [We're teaching them how to] be focused, know how to be a subordinate and at the same time, we're getting them out in the community; we're helping them develop their careers and grow into good strong young men."

Both coaches make it a priority to get to know the athletes personally so that they can help each one grow and develop as an athlete, but most importantly, as a leader. They mentioned the importance of having time together as athletes building relationships, but also to not lose sight of what they represent as a whole in the process.

The Tribal Basketball Association started its league in August, but due to checking and double checking Air Force guidance, Malmstrom got a late start - they played their first game in September. Following their late start, due to frequent requests, they've also added a girl's team to the association, traveling with the men's.

According to Greene, even after their late start, each school within the Association has embraced their participation within the league.

"These people brought us into their community as well as we're bringing them into ours," Greene said. "They accepted us with high regard being that they highly respect the military and thank us for what we do each day. That's what we're bringing to this community."

So far, Malmstrom's team has played four games. They've won two and lost two making for a "break-even" record, but according to their coaches, "this team is really serious."
Gatlin and Greene are planning a "Tournament of Champions" for the teams, tentatively to be played here on base Jan. 25 through 27. Their first game is scheduled to be played following the end of the Wing Sports Smackdown Jan. 25. Teams from Minot AFB, S.D.; Mountain Home AFB, Idaho; F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo.; and Hill AFB, Utah; will tentatively be invited.

Coaches and teammates alike, encourage all of Team Malmstrom to come out and watch all of the talent Malmstrom's Varsity Basketball Team has.

For more information on the team, contact Gatlin at 731-3307.


· Jan. 12 - Malmstrom vs. Stone Child College
2 p.m. at Rocky Boy, Mont.

· Jan. 25 - Salish Kootenai vs. Malmstrom
Time TBA at Malmstrom AFB

· Jan. 26 - Salish Kootenai vs. Malmstrom
Time TBA at Malmstrom AFB

All community games against the University of Great Falls are to be played at Malmstrom. Times and dates will be determined at a later time.