January 20, 2014
By Kelly McHugh
K-State men's basketball team took a trip to Fort Riley on Jan. 15 to check out the 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment's flight simulators.
Each player had the opportunity to check out just how difficult flying a helicopter would be - whether that helicopter was a Chinook, Apache or Blackhawk - without ever leaving the ground.
"We did a couple flight simulations and they were all fun," freshman guard Marcus Foster said. "I got to learn how to fly a helicopter and it was a lot harder than I thought it would be. It was my first time, and I enjoyed it."
The team soared over Bramlage Coliseum, and crashed a few times trying to clear Bill Snyder Family Stadium. It found out just how hard it is to make a smooth landing, while also finding out hovering is much more difficult than it looks.
"Flying the helicopters was cool. I'm not sure which one (was my favorite), I think it was called the Blackhawk, but truly, I didn't get to get in," six-foot-seven senior forward Shane Southwell laughed. "I was too tall, but Marcus did really well, he enjoyed himself."
The men's basketball team has been partnered with the 1-7 Field Artillery Regiment on Fort Riley since the fall of 2008 and, since then, it's been an exciting journey for both the players and the soldiers. From attending memorial services, to checking out tanks to, like last week, learning how to fly in the post's simulators, K-State men's basketball team has had a first-hand experience learning about the lives of its military neighbors.
"It's been a great experience for me and the guys, we really enjoyed ourselves," senior forward Shane Southwell said. "We basically got to see the life of a soldier, and it's a lot different from the life of a student-athlete. We really got a chance to appreciate these guys and see how hard it is on a day-to-day basis in terms of just even learning about the helicopters and things of that nature. It's really good for us to see these types of things."
The soldiers have also spent time shadowing the players everywhere - to class, a weight lifting session and film studies - to see what it's like to play basketball at K-State. Each year the Wildcats celebrate a Military Appreciation Day at a select basketball game (this season's military appreciation day took place during the Wildcats' 87-54 win over Central Arkansas on Dec. 1) where the partnering unit has the opportunity to get involved and support the team.
On game days, you can see the 1-7 Field Artillery Regiment's crest proudly displayed on the team's jerseys, and the soldiers are almost always at games ready to cheer on the Cats.
For the Wildcats' five freshmen, it was the first opportunity to really get a good chance at experiencing the partnership, and for Foster, visiting the simulators made him excited to think about the partnership's future in his upcoming years at K-State.
"It'll just keep on humbling me," explained Foster, "because they have it harder than we do. Coach Weber tells us all the time that we're spoiled and that these guys over here, they're putting their lives on the line for us and our country."