During K-State men's basketball games, you might have noticed a small red and yellow patch on the upper left side of the jersey. This patch bears the logo of the 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, and represents a partnership and bond between two unlikely groups.
Following the lead of the K-State football program and its partnership with the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry "Black Lions", a connection was formed with the men of the 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment and the men's basketball team in late August 2008. A few meetings between the team and the soldiers were set up in the Fall of 2008. Despite the unlikely pairing with vastly different experiences and backgrounds, there was an immediate connection between the two groups.
The entire team roster went back to visit Fort Riley a second time on Sept. 11, 2008. While they were there, the players attended the 9-11 remembrance ceremony. The team also got an up-close look at the machinery used by the soldiers including a Paladin Howitzer and a Humvee. The players were given the full soldier experience, including wearing full military gear, eating with other soldiers in the mess hall, and taking part in combat simulation exercises.
Later in the year, the tables were turned as the Wildcats hosted a few soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment and showed them what the day of an student athlete involves. The soldiers shadowed the players everywhere — to class, a weightlifting session with Strength Coach Scott Greenawalt, and film study. The soldiers then got to experience life as a Big 12 Conference basketball player as they took part in on-court practice with the team.
The 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment was deployed to Iraq in late September 2008. Head coach Frank Martin and some of his assistants attended the solider's deployment ceremony. During the 2008-2009 season, the Wildcats wore warm-ups with the 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment crest and the K-State powercat.
To continue the connection, the team would send the soldiers DVDs of games and the soldiers would send back "shout outs" — short video messages from the soldiers played on the videoboard during games in Bramlage Coliseum. But the strong connection between these two groups runs deeper than shout outs and DVDs. Ask any of the players who took part in the unique experiences both in Manhattan and at Fort Riley, and they are quick to say how strong the bonds are, and how much they respect and care for the soldiers putting themselves in harm's way for our country.
In honor of their friends and partners, the Wildcats wear the crest of the1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment on their jerseys and the soldiers hang signs about their partnership in Battalion headquarters.
Each of these groups is full of tradition and pride. Since the return of 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, the soldiers attended the Fort Hays State game and received a standing ovation after the recognition of the relationship with the Wildcats. Both groups have benefited from the experiences together, and look forward to continuing the partnership into the future.