By Air Force Senior Airman Jonathan Bass
20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C., May 14, 2015 – A smile spreads across her face as she bounces a basketball, remembering the longest 40 minutes of her life.
“I just tried to play hard for the entire game,” said Air Force 2nd Lt. Micah Wessinger. “Even though I was tired, I pushed through until we won.”
Wessinger, 20th Logistics Readiness Squadron installation deployment officer, recently had the privilege of representing the U.S. armed forces during the Headquarters AirCom Inter-Nation Basketball Tournament, March 24-27. The tournament, which is held every two years, uses sports as an avenue to build relationships between NATO nations.
This year, six NATO nations’ air forces competed in the tournament: the U.S., Germany, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Poland and the Netherlands.
Basketball Fan Since Age 6
Wessinger, a native of Chester, South Carolina, not only led the U.S. Armed Forces Women’s Basketball Team to a gold medal, but won the event’s most valuable player award.
An avid basketball fan and player since age 6, Wessinger jumped at the opportunity when the Air Force provided it.
“It was random,” said Wessinger, who stands 5 feet 6 inches tall and plays shooting guard. “I received an email from the Air Force sports representative asking if I wanted to play and I said yes.”
Wessinger has played on both the Air Force Women’s Basketball Team and the U.S. Armed Forces Basketball Team in the past two years. By the end of the tournament, held at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, two foes-turned-allies met on the hardwood to settle the score. The U.S. beat Germany 90-89 to win the title, with Wessinger playing all 40 minutes of the game.
Bobby Seaberry, coach of the U.S. Women’s Team, made her the team captain at the start of the tournament, calling her “a leader, on and off the court.” Seaberry said he didn’t want to have her play the entire game, but having multiple team members in foul trouble caused a change in his plans.
Fortunately Wessinger’s innate leadership abilities took control. She knew it was on her to lead the team to a win when two of her teammates fouled out during the second half, she said.
“I never thought we would lose,” she said. “From the start of the game, I stayed in the mindset that we were going to win.”
Wessinger hit her final four free throws late in the game, helping secure the victory.
“I remember shooting those free throws and thinking, ‘We need these, do not miss these,’” she said.
Seaberry credited Wessinger’s ability to play both sides of the court as a big part of the team’s achievement.
“[Wessinger] did a great job in the tournament,” Seaberry said. “She hit some big shots and knocked down some big free throws, and played hard defense to come away with a few steals and grab some big rebounds for the team.”
Heart and Hustle
With 19 points, five rebounds, three assists, and three steals in the championship game, Wessinger’s abilities are apparent.
“I love both sides of the game, I think defense is more important, but offense is more fun,” said Wessinger as a smile widens across her face.
Wessinger’s tenacity on the court is a direct reflection of her work ethic and commitment to the Air Force. This allows her to play and lead well regardless of the situation.
“At work I have a hand in the deployment process for the entire wing, whether it’s for an exercise or sending Airmen down range, my office has a part and I love that part.”
Wessinger credits her success, on and off the court, to her heart. “I use my hustle,” she said. “During the game I never quit, I may not be the best player, but I always give it my best.”