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Luke Thunderbolts celebrate wingman day

Col. Jeremy Sloane, 56th Fighter Wing vice commander, shoots a basket Nov. 7 in the Luke Air Force Base Bryant Fitness Center. Luke commanders went up against the Phoenix Banner Wheelchair Suns basketball team in celebration of wingman day. Luke’s Wingman Day offered Airmen a pause in the day-to-day mission to reinforce the wingman concept. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Grace Lee)

Col. Jeremy Sloane, 56th Fighter Wing vice commander, shoots a basket Nov. 7 in the Luke Air Force Base Bryant Fitness Center. Luke commanders went up against the Phoenix Banner Wheelchair Suns basketball team in celebration of wingman day. Luke’s Wingman Day offered Airmen a pause in the day-to-day mission to reinforce the wingman concept. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Grace Lee)

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- "The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team." -- Phil Jackson

Luke Thunderbolts came together to observe wingman day in a unique way -- watching the Phoenix Banner Wheelchair Suns basketball team dominate Luke Air Force Base commanders during two basketball games Nov. 7 in the Bryant Fitness Center.

The event opened with a video message from Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, 56th Fighter Wing commander.

"Our goal here today is to build and sustain a thriving and resilient Air Force community that fosters whole-person fitness," Pleus said. "Our focus is on the well-being and care for ourselves, each other and our families so we can be more resilient to the many challenges military service brings."

After Pleus' message, Airmen were shown a short video clip that focused on honoring the strength in team before the first basketball game began.

While the highlight of the day was watching basketball, it was important to understand the deeper meaning of how the game relates to wingman day.

"The purpose of the game is to demonstrate how working as a team creates momentum, improves moral, adds strength to the individual and could even save lives," said Sharen Kozak, 56th FW community support coordinator.

The day's festivities also highlighted Wounded Warriors and how they have persevered through adversity as individuals and team members through the four pillars of the Comprehensive Airman Fitness domains -- physical, mental, social and spiritual.

During halftime, morale was especially high after the Phoenix Suns Dancers and the Suns Gorilla interacted with Airmen and tossed out prizes.

Though Luke commanders were given many advantages to win, the end result of the game was a loss.

"For me, wingman day means bringing all the Airmen together, raising our morale, allowing us to have fun together and get to know each other," said Staff Sgt. Sam Hebreo, 56th Operations Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment technician. "The game is going great. I did not expect it to bring such great vibes, and it's exciting."

For one Phoenix Banner Wheelchair Suns basketball team player, coming out to Luke was about showing others what they can achieve through misfortune.

"I feel pretty good about today's first game," said Ryan Stevens, Phoenix Banner Wheelchair Suns basketball team player. "I think we have shown that individuals can overcome adversity to be a positive image for their team, in the community and in their environment, whatever that may be. We wanted to be a part of wingman day to support our Airmen and those who have served -- both past and present."
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