Aiming high: A prospect cut short

2nd Lt. Dawn Sanderson, 741st Missile Squadron deputy missile combat crew commander, recently had the opportunity to try-out for the All-Air Force Basketball Team at Maxwell AFB, Ala. The 5-foot-11-inch center, was one of 31 Airmen selected to try out for the team. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brittany Y. Auld)

2nd Lt. Dawn Sanderson, 741st Missile Squadron deputy missile combat crew commander, recently had the opportunity to try-out for the All-Air Force Basketball Team at Maxwell AFB, Ala. The 5-foot-11-inch center, was one of 31 Airmen selected to try out for the team. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brittany Y. Auld)

Maxwell AFB, Ala. -- Representing a military service branch as part of a sport's team is a unique opportunity available throughout the Department of Defense to all uniformed personnel skilled in athletics ranging from boxing to soccer.

A deputy missile combat crew commander assigned to the 741st Missile Squadron at Minot Air Force Base recently had the opportunity to try-out for the All-Air Force Basketball Team at Maxwell AFB, Ala.

"It was very exciting and humbling experience for me," said 2nd Lt. Dawn Sanderson, a 5-foot-11-inch center. "The opportunity was not just a positive experience in regards to basketball but also as an Air Force experience in general."

It was her skilled devotion to playing basketball throughout her high school and college years that paved the way for her selection in the list of 31 Airmen picked to report for basketball duty.

Having played four years on the Methodist University in North Carolina, she started in every game her senior season, totaling 303 points, accumulated 164 rebounds, 28 assists, 40 steals, and 17 blocks, as well as averaging 76 percent of free throws made. She was also named Methodist Scholar Athlete and USA South Academic All-Conference.

Arriving at Maxwell AFB on a late Saturday night, the steady yet continual evaluation of their skills in the sport began shortly thereafter the next morning.

"It was daunting at first to see the level of talent from a multitude of bases, career fields, and ranks," Sanderson said.

Practice included a variety of defensive drills and conditioning. It was clear from the beginning of camp that every player attending was a scorer, but defensive positions would be the defining factor for those who would make the team.

Hours and hours of exercises ensued from the moment they first began. However, the players were able to enjoy some time off in the afternoons, including a special barbeque dinner with 42nd Air Base Wing Commander Col. Trent Edwards.

Sanderson said despite the long hours of training, she was happy for the outstanding service provided by the facilities in which the players were housed, likewise for their basketball training courts.

"Located directly across from the fitness center, the proximity of lodging made it ideal for me and others to hobble back and forth from practice to our respective rooms," Sanderson explained. "The fitness center staff provided us with a continuous supply of water, sports drinks, towels, bananas, oranges, protein bars, and thankfully when practice was over, ice bags."

On day three of practice the team was informed during the morning that they were finally going to begin scrimmaging each other in the afternoon. Prior to this, the majority of practice had consisted of defensive drills, conditioning, and learning new offensive and defensive sets. This was going to be an important moment in camp because it was the first opportunity they had to show the coaches exactly who they were as players. Unfortunately for Sanderson, she had woken up to a stiff back and was put on rest for the day.

Shortly thereafter, the coaches began to assess who the first set of players would be going home empty-handed. Nonetheless, Sanderson said she was confident she would prevail and at the end of the night, five individuals were cut and she had made it to the second round.

To her dismay, the next morning she found out the try-outs had been canceled due to lack of funding originating from the temporary government shutdown, Oct. 1.

"It was a sad moment for us," said Sanderson. "We had already begun to bond together as a team and would not be able to realize the full potential of those connections on the court."

Despite the bad news, she was still thankful to her leadership for giving her the opportunity to attend the tryouts.

"I wish I had been given the full chance to represent Minot Air Force Base and the Air Force as a whole in the final tournament," said Sanderson.

She was confident she would have succeeded because of what she was able to do on the court.

"I was able to meet a lot of different people from multiple career fields and bases, including an opportunity to interact with other Airmen in a truly unique way," Sanderson said. "This was a very positive experience for my career as well because it showed me other aspects of the Air Force that I would not necessarily see as a second lieutenant during my first tour of duty."

She is hopeful and eager to potentially be afforded the same prospect again next year if possible.