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Elite basketball team practices at Patrick

The All-Armed Forces Women's Basketball team practices May 9 at the Patrick Fitness Center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class David Dobrydney

The All-Armed Forces Women's Basketball team practices May 9 at the Patrick Fitness Center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class David Dobrydney

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The elite All-Armed Forces Women's basketball team, equal to a semi-pro team, arrived here May 5.

The team came to practice and get ready to face teams from across the country in the Open AAU National Women's Basketball Championships which start today in Cocoa Beach.

Since they arrived, the team has trained and practiced four hours a day, six days a week on the court in the Fitness Center. They came to Patrick because it is the nearest military base to where the championship will be held.

The nine-player team is comprised of members from all the services and from bases all over the world. They were chosen by their services as the top players from their respective teams, making this an all-star affair.

Coaches for the team are determined by which service wins the All Armed Forces Championship. This year, Navy Lt. Sam Caldwell is head coach for the team and has coached basketball for the past 15 years. "That's a long time," he admitted, "but I love it. I don't want to do anything else."

That sentiment is echoed by Assistant Coach Darryl Carpenter, a Technical Sergeant from Travis Air Force Base, Calif. "In order to do what we do, you have to love it," said Sergeant Carpenter. He likened the skills in coaching to those in his job as an air transportation supervisor in his home unit. "It all relates...you're just training in a different job capacity."

Staff Sgt. Lyschale Jones is the lone Air Force member on the team. Her home station is Bolling Air Force Base in Washington D.C. A former player for North Carolina State University, this is Sergeant Jones' fifth year on the All Armed-Forces team. "It's always an honor," she said. "To have fellowship and the chance to bond with other services, it's really cool."

Having not visited Patrick before, Sergeant Jones thinks the base and the surrounding area is beautiful. "I'd love to be stationed here," she said.