by Senior Airman Alexander W. Riedel
36th Wing Public Affairs
6/11/2015 - ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- As
the sun hangs in a warm glow over the Pacific island, a group of Guam
High School football players eagerly reach for a chilled bottle of water
as they take a break from football drills at Andersen Air Force Base.
A few moments later, they are summoned back to the field and queue up to
run several yards before reaching for a wide pass from across the
"Good catch!" compliments their coach with a high-five as he readies for the next throw.
For almost a month now, Senior Airman Presley Griffith, 36th Mobility
Response Squadron executive assistant, spends three evenings per week
coaching free spring football training sessions he created in tandem
with Guam High School's head coach, Jacob Dowdell.
"I've played football since third grade and I realized how important
practicing in the spring is to prepare and get ready (for the fall
season)," Griffith said. "When I learned that students here did not have
a training camp yet, I decided to help out. Now, students get to throw
the ball on an actual football field and run through drills and
movements together as a team in preparation for the upcoming season."
Growing up in Fouke, Arkansas, football was at the center of life for
the former quarterback and continues to be a lifelong passion for the
Airman. During his senior year, Griffith's commitment on the field
earned him the chance to attend Football University's Top Gun High
School Camp, an intense training event reserved for top players. He
received pointers and mentorship from experienced coaches, former NFL
players and was also scouted by Southern Arkansas University, which
later offered him an opportunity to join their team after graduation.
The offer, however, placed Griffith in a bind. A battery of injuries
suffered during the competitive high school season had taken a toll on
the young student, making his decision to advance into an even more
demanding level of the sport a difficult one.
If he continued his studies to play at the collegiate level, Griffith
recalled, he and his family feared he'd risk his health and professional
"I remember first hearing that teams were interested in me. I was
ecstatic and excited about being able to play at the next level,"
Griffith said. "But when it came time to decide, my mind was in the
game, but my body wasn't. I knew I couldn't go to college and get beat
up like I was in high school."
Another long-time childhood dream, joining the Air Force, quickly started to come into renewed focus for the athlete.
"I wanted to be in the military ever since I was a little kid," he
recalled. "I realized that I could join the military and still pursue a
coaching degree and the necessary certifications, all while serving my
His passion to assist young athletes is more than just game strategy and
technical instruction, Griffith said. The students often look for role
models and answers about life after high school - turning coaching into
"Being a young volunteer coach allows me to work on a very personal
level with the players," he said. "I was just in their shoes a few years
ago. I get to tell them about how important and valuable their time is
right now, to give 100 percent effort and to also enjoy it every step of
the way, because they are going to miss it later."
Unexpectedly, Griffith said Air force life offers an excellent
opportunity to advance his coaching experience at different schools and
pursue his education, on his way to meet his ultimate goal of becoming a
high school history teacher and football coach.
"I realized how much coaches have helped me grow as a person," he said.
"You learn a lot about discipline, values and mentorship. That is my
goal in life, to be a high school football coach and to mentor young
"The students are the long-term goal," Griffith continued. "It's not
about winning every game, but about getting better, fine-tuning your
skill and getting the opportunity to keep playing at the next level. And
we try to make this possible for the athletes here."
His assistance is also appreciated by GHS's coach, who leads the
extracurricular training sessions with Griffith and volunteers
additional time with his team.
"Having Senior Airman Griffith out here, bringing his experience to the
team, is something we're very happy to have," Dowdell said. "It's all
about keeping kids active and healthy. And it's a community effort. With
Griffith leading this training, you can tell the students respond to
him. They anxiously await his arrival and are ready to work. It's a real
pleasure having him here."
To be able to meet with the student athletes after work, Griffith
manages a balancing act between work, taking distance education college
classes and his wife, who is also expecting their first child.
During duty hours, Griffith currently assists the 36th MRS commander
with any and all administrative needs. Whether it's processing
performance reports, decorations or handling correspondence and
appointments, he manages the organizational needs for his office.
While spending several hours conducting weekly coaching sessions
requires careful planning, Griffith's leaders have been supportive of
his efforts whenever possible, he said.
"Senior Airman Griffith has always expressed an interest in coaching
football," said Tech. Sgt. Cheryl Turonis, 36th Wing NCO in charge of
the wing support staff and Griffith's former supervisor. "I am glad to
see that he is pursuing his goal through volunteering with the Guam High
School Football team."
In the near future, Griffith hopes to complete his volunteer coaching
package, which would allow him to officially join the local Defense
Department Education Activity's high school coaching team as an
"There are plenty of opportunities to help in the community," Griffith
said. "You just have to go out and try. It's important to give 100
percent of your heart. It's going to take some time, but you're going to
help and benefit kids in the future. Just know that they are going to
look up to you and it's paramount to be an appropriate role model for
Until his next permanent change of station, Griffith plans to continue
coaching, improving as a mentor and attending the local high school
However, he said there is one downside to being a football fan on a
remote island in the Pacific: Watching live football broadcasts may turn
into an unexpected challenge as games air with a 14 hour time
difference from the East Coast. Griffith's joy for the game thus often
keeps him up and in front of the TV at odd hours of the night, as he
catches the latest developments in stadiums half a world away.
"My wife fully understands my love for the game," Griffith said. "She
gets up with me at 4 a.m. on Sunday mornings to watch the games and
understands how much it means to me."