by 1st Lt. Michael Strawser and
Tech. Sgt. Darnell T. Cannady
480th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs
Two members from the 693rd Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, were recently selected for the Air Force women’s and men’s softball teams.
Master Sgt. Latonya Thomas and Staff Sgt. Christopher Stephenson were recruited after participating in 10 days of tryouts; a pool from which only the top one percent were chosen.
The two went on to compete and win against each branch of service in the Armed Forces Softball Tournament for their respective teams from Aug. 12-18 at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida.
Thomas has been in the Air Force for 16 years, spending her first seven years as a personnelist, prior to retraining into intelligence. A gym staff member, who knew about the Air Force Softball program, encouraged her to apply after watching her play. Thomas played for the Air Force Women’s Softball Team during the Armed Forces Softball Tournament and in the World Softball League-Military, Women’s World Championship, where they finished in first place.
“There’s no greater feeling than when every team is lined up on the field during the opening ceremony, the Air Force song is playing and you realize that you are one of 15 men or women chosen to represent the entire Air Force in the Armed Forces Tournament,” said Thomas. “This is an opportunity that not many people know about or get to do, so I feel incredibly blessed that my leadership allowed me to participate.”
Stephenson has been in the Air Force for eight years, and was stationed at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, before moving to Ramstein. He enjoys spending time playing softball, reading, and playing video games when not traveling. He played for the Air Forces Men’s Softball Team, and was selected for the All-Tournament Men’s Team, which recognizes the 10 best players from all participating Armed Forces Teams.
“Once I found out I was selected, I was relieved and extremely excited to represent,” said Stephenson. “It has honestly been the highlight of my career, so far.”
Air Force softball team coaches select players not solely on talent, but on character as well. In doing so, they ensure players mesh well and can work together to overcome any situation. According to players, being part of the Air Force team taught them a lot of skills they will bring back to their work centers.
For Thomas, this was exhibited during the championship game of the Armed Forces tournament against the Army. The Air Force team was down four runs in the last inning with two outs, but never gave up and ended up scoring five runs to win the tournament.
“One of the main lessons I brought back from softball is to never give up – just don’t quit,” said Thomas. “There were times during tournaments where the other team thought they had us beat, but we dug deep. We were able to rely on each other and ultimately pull out the win. This can be applied to any circumstance, whether that be PT, promotions testing… you name it.”
For Stephenson, who is a coach for the Ramstein Base Softball Team, this gave him an opportunity to lead by example and maintain a positive outlook.
“My goal is to let those guys see that I’m putting in the work to be the most consistent and reliable person in any situation,” added Stephenson. “If they see me putting in the work to do the little things, they will want to do the same. If we are all working hard to do that, it makes the team that much better.”
Thomas and Stephenson continue to be ambassadors for the Air Force both at work and on the field.