NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — U.S. Military athletes who represent their branch of service during a competition wearing their service’s logo on their chest represent more than just themselves. These athletes represent every man and woman in their specific branch of service.
At Nellis AFB there are a lot of Airmen who submit an Air Force Form 303, request for USAF specialized sports training, to Larry Bridges, 99th Force Support Squadron Warrior Fitness Center sports director. The AF Form 303 is a resume containing information about the athlete’s sports career and an endorsement of why he or she should be selected to try out for a particular Air Force team.
“Not every Airmen who submits [the AF Form 303] makes it,” Bridges said, “But every once in a while, I get the chance to see a tremendous athlete. Nellis [AFB] has great Airmen and great athletes.”
Bridges notes the potential for an Airman who runs track to have a great chance of making the Air Force team and possibly making the U.S. Olympic team. He also recognizes the skill of a basketball player who executed a successful Windmill Dunk at a team U.S.A. Basketball game at the Thomas and Mack Center July 25 in front of spectators and professional players, who is trying out for the Air Force basketball team.
Staff Sgt. Yarbrough Bloomfield III, 99th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle dispatcher, can run a 100-meter dash in 10.1 seconds and is training to do it for the Air Force Track and Field team.
“I’ve been running my whole life,” Bloomfield said. “I was fast as a [child] and everyone always picked me because of my speed. My cousins used to set up races for me with [children] on the block, and I would literally have [children] that I didn’t even know get mad at me before I raced them because of how much my cousins talked me up.”
Bloomfield, who hails from the small town of Canton, Miss., feels like he wasn’t supposed to make it out of there.
“There are gangs, drugs, and education isn’t a priority,” Bloomfield said. “You don’t make it out and succeed.”
Bloomfield’s drive comes from remembering where he came from and aspiring to reach his dream of joining the Air Force team and participating on the U.S. Olympics team.
Bloomfield trains five days a week for about three to four hours a day at the Warrior Fitness Center.
“When the day comes when I tryout, I want to be proud of my effort,” Bloomfield said. “I don’t care if I come in last with a broken leg. I will cross that finish line, and I will give everything I have.”
“From what I have seen, Bloomfield is a special talent,” Bridges said. “I hope he does well and is able represents Nellis [at the Air Force level].”
Mills’ passion for basketball came from watching the Chicago Bulls in 1995 with his father. He saw his father’s reactions to the big dunks of Michael Jordan, and he wanted to be able to do the same thing.
“From that day on I played ball, whether it be beautiful outside or raining, sleeting [or] snowing,” Mills said. “I didn’t care; I just wanted to play. I wanted to be better.”
In high school, Mills just wanted to touch the rim, and during his sophomore year, he did just that. The following year, he had a growth spurt and was able to dunk.
“It was during a game and [another] player tossed me a pass, and I dunked it,” Mills said. “I knew it was a little dunk, but at the time, I felt like Jordan.”
When Mills joined the Air Force, he wasn’t going to put basketball on the back burner, but his obligation was to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. So he would always try to practice and play when he was off duty, but that commitment would be tested when he got orders for a deployment.
“When I was deployed, I was upset because my daughter was just born, and I felt I had missed the first milestones of her life,” Mills said. “I had to go, so I did my job the best I could. Where I was had a basketball hoop, so I made a promise to myself. Every night that I was off duty, I would shoot 400 shots and practice dribbling.”
He figured if he practiced when he got back, he would be able to try out for the Air Force team and found different ways to increase his skills.
“I found old chairs, pieces of wood and I would make defenders out of them,” Mills said.
Mills received a call from the coaches of the Air Force basketball team a couple days after the USA Basketball game at the Thomas and Mack Center asking if he was going to try out for the team this year.
“[I told the Air Force Basketball coaches] it is a goal of mine to play for the team,” Mills said. “Being able to play at a very competitive level and represent the Air Force would be an honor I wouldn’t take lightly.”
The road these two Airmen have traveled to try out for their respective Air Force sports teams has been different, but they are very competitive and don’t accept just anyone. Top athletes don’t wake up on top. They work hard for their achievements, and they train hard and play hard.
“Gold medals aren’t really made of gold,” said Dan Gable, retired wrestling Olympic Gold Medalist. “They’re made of sweat, determination, and a hard-to-find alloy called guts.”