JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
Other than playing against each other in softball while stationed in Korea, two All-Air Force Men's Softball rookies didn't really know each other until they arrived at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland for team tryouts this year.
After Master Sgt. Raymond Ford, a meteorologist at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and Senior Airman Scott Wood, a Security Forces police officer at Osan Air Base, South Korea, officially met, they found out they have a few things in common, except for preferences in sports teams.
Both are outfielders with ties to the Houston area. Ford was born in Houston but moved to a small town called Altair, which is located more than hour outside of the city, when he was younger. Wood was born in Mississippi but moved to Houston less than a year after being born.
Ford loves his hometown sports teams while Wood is a devoted Alabama Crimson Tide and New York Yankees fan.
"It's ridiculous and an embarrassment to the state of Texas," Ford joked about Wood's preference in sports teams.
"He's just jealous because I'm a winner," Wood quipped back, alluding to his team's championship success.
As official All-Air Force Men's Softball Team members, both can overlook their differences of opinion on sports teams to achieve a common goal-to help the team reclaim the Armed Forces Softball Championship gold medal.
The Army ended the Air Force's streak of three consecutive gold medals when it claimed the 2012 title by holding the tiebreaker over the Air Force in the triple round-robin tournament that included teams from the Navy and the Marine Corps.
"We not only want to make the Air Force proud, but we want to make our families and the state proud," Ford said. "Playing with someone from your area, when they're playing well, makes you want to play well," Wood said. "We want to represent the Air Force and the state."
While both players are rookies on the team, they have varying softball experience. Wood, 25, has been playing competitive softball since joining the Air Force over two years ago. He learned about the All-Air Force Softball program from All-Air Force Men's Softball Assistant Coach Chris Simpson and his varsity softball teammates in Korea, who previously played on the team.
"Seeing those guys play at a high level drove me to want to get better," Wood said. "I want to play at a high level. I always want to do the best that I can in everything that I do because, otherwise, there's no point to being out there.
"I worked hard, got better, and improved my game. I talked to my varsity softball coach, and he felt that I could play at the All-Air Force Softball level so he helped me fill out the Air Force Form 303 application."
Simpson is proud of Wood's progression since their days together on the Osan varsity softball team. "From the first time I saw him, he's grown leaps and bounds as a ball player offensively and defensively," Simpson said.
Ford filled out his first application this year after playing softball while serving overseas for nine years.
The Air Force Form 303 allows active duty, National Guard, and Reserve Air Force personnel an opportunity to participate in Air Force, Armed Forces, national and international sporting events.
"I got lucky by getting selected to try out for the team," Ford said. "I came out there, and all my hard work paid off by being chosen for the final roster.
"It's been pretty awesome to meet this great group of guys. Everybody has a ridiculous amount of talent, and if we put it together, we could attain the ultimate goal of the Armed Forces Softball gold medal. Being part of the All-Air Force Softball Team is something I wanted to experience before I hang up my sneakers so to speak."
Wood hopes his All-Air Force Softball experience is one of many to come.
"To be fortunate to get here so young, I hope to have the opportunity to be here in the future so I can help other players the way the veterans helped me to get to this level."
"If we just go out and play our game, there is no pressure because our talent will come to the surface," Ford said.
"We are trying to live up to the old Air Force Men's Softball teams' standards, but this is the 2013 team and we are trying to make our own history."
"This team honestly cares about each other," Ford said. "Nobody gets upset with you. I've been on teams where people go crazy. On this team, we pick each other up and we have each other's backs.
"It all starts with our coaches and rolls down to our veterans and rookies."
"It's a total team effort," Wood said. "If you get out, that's ok. The next guy is going to pick you up."
Ford and Wood enjoy traditional team activities off the field, which include performing skits during downtime at the Armed Forces Softball Championships as part of their roles as rookies.
The team camaraderie is why the All-Air Force men's softball Team will be successful again this year, Wood said.
"Being there for your team helps make you a better, well rounded player," Wood said.
Ford believes the team's success starts at the top.
"We have the best coaches," he said. "What I've learned in the military is that it all starts with leadership. They are teaching us exactly what we need to do and putting us in the right positions to succeed. As long as we step up and seize the moment, we will be just fine."