Fort McCoy News May 27, 2016

U.K. Army Air Corps team visits, plays goodwill game

The United Kingdom (U.K.) Army Air Corps (AAC) basketball team visited Fort McCoy May 9 to take on a U.S. Army team as part of a goodwill visit and basketball game at Rumpel Fitness Center.

The visit was part of a United States tour of competitions against the Chicago Blues; the Illinois Institute of Technology Army ROTC cadets in Chicago; the Blue Jackets from Naval Station Great Lakes, Ill.; the Loyola University Army ROTC cadets; and Fort McCoy.

While the most popular sports within the U.K. Army are football (soccer) and rugby, U.K. Army Capt. Glyn Dix said basketball now is breaking out of its infancy in the U.K. military — having only been in place for six years. Until this tour, Dix said, the AAC team competed only against other teams within the U.K. Army.

A basketball team with Fort McCoy Soldiers takes on the U.K. Army Air Corps basketball team in a goodwill game at Rumpel Fitness Center.
A basketball team with Fort McCoy Soldiers takes on the U.K. Army
Air Corps basketball team in a goodwill game at Rumpel Fitness Center.

Photo by Jobi Spolum


Public Affairs Specialist Theresa Fitzgerald with the Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office answers questions from members of he U.K. Army Air Corps basketball team during a tour of the Fort McCoy Commemorative Area.
Public Affairs Specialist Theresa Fitzgerald with the Fort McCoy Public
Affairs Office answers questions from members of he U.K. Army Air
Corps basketball team during a tour of the Fort McCoy Commemorative
Area.
Photo by Scott T. Sturkol

AAC player Air Trooper Andy Strathdee, an aviation signaleer, said he enjoyed coming to the United States, playing the games, and meeting Fort McCoy community members.

"It's been a great and new experience, and I've seen how everything here is very different," Strathdee said. "This (tour) also shows we are willing to come oveSr to the U.S. and further our relationship with our (military) counterparts. I think it also opens the door to invite U.S. (players) to come to the U.K. to do a similar exchange."

Dix said the tour rewards players who have shown commitment to the AAC team and provides an incentive to players thinking of taking up the sport within the AAC. He said it helps promote basketball within the U.K. Army.

The AAC has worked closely with the U.S. Army and Air Force on numerous occasions on exercises and operations in similar exchanges in the past.

"During these times we have had the opportunity to further strengthen the strong link we have between us by having friendly games of football, basketball, (and other) sporting competitions," Dix said. "It is these events that help break down barriers and (build) collaborative working (relationships)."

Dix said the tour also helps them learn more about the game of basketball.

"We can only get up to a certain standard against (U.K.) Army teams," Dix said. "If we want to progress, we need to play against oppositions of a much higher standard."

Dix added that playing a mix of civilian and military teams educates and trains the players.

Air Trooper Stewart Patterson, a team forward and AAC communications specialist, said the tour brought him to the United States for the first time.

"Everybody has been very welcoming to us," Patterson said. "This is a great experience to be able to play Americans at their own sport and learn more about it."

Sgt. Josh Beyer, chaplain assistant with the Fort McCoy Religious Support Office, was one of seven Soldiers on the Fort McCoy team. Though the Fort McCoy team sealed a 75-31 victory, Beyer said he and his teammates were impressed with the U.K. service members' effort.

"We all had a lot of fun playing the game," Beyer said. "This was a way for us to connect with them and to get to know them better. And all through the game, I was really impressed with their great attitude. I would gladly do something like this again."

The AAC team also toured the installation's award-winning Commemorative Area with the Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office. The team visited the Equipment Park, Commemorative Area buildings, History Center, and Veterans Memorial Plaza.

Cpl. Leo Sibanda, AAC communications specialist and one of the team's point guards, said the Fort McCoy welcome was appreciated by all team members.

"To be able to come out here, learn a little bit about your history … I've enjoyed it," Sibanda said. "A vote of thanks to all of you for the way you received us and welcomed us."

In addition to Beyer, other members the Fort McCoy team were Clint Kurth, Jason Hericks, Larry Jackson, Christian Sampson, Adam Kirschling, and Mario Coursey. The visit was coordinated through the Office of the (Army) Chief of Public Affairs, Midwest Region, in Chicago.

   (Article prepared by the Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office.)