An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

HomeNewsroomNewsArticle Display

Article - Article View

Forging friendships across a net

DECIMOMANNU AIR BASE, Sardinia -- Maj. Brian Mason, 21st Space Wing Judge Advocate General deputy staff judge advocate, second from left, and his teammates represented the Air Force in a multinational tennis tournament. The event was held Sept. 19-23 at Decimomannu Air Base, Sardinia. (Courtesy photo)

DECIMOMANNU AIR BASE, Sardinia -- Maj. Brian Mason, 21st Space Wing Judge Advocate General deputy staff judge advocate, second from left, and his teammates represented the Air Force in a multinational tennis tournament. The event was held Sept. 19-23 at Decimomannu Air Base, Sardinia. (Courtesy photo)

DECIMOMANNU AIR BASE, Sardinia -- Maj. Brian Mason, 21st Space Wing Judge Advocate General deputy staff judge advocate, warms up in preparation for a match at the Aircom Tennis Championship, Sept. 19-23 at Decimomannu Air Base, Sardinia. The tournament was held by Headquarters, Allied Air Component Command, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s air component, based at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. (Courtesy photo)

DECIMOMANNU AIR BASE, Sardinia -- Maj. Brian Mason, 21st Space Wing Judge Advocate General deputy staff judge advocate, warms up in preparation for a match at the Aircom Tennis Championship, Sept. 19-23 at Decimomannu Air Base, Sardinia. The tournament was held by Headquarters, Allied Air Component Command, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s air component, based at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. (Courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- It wasn’t fuzzy and yellow. It did not fly over a net. However, an opportunity bounced right into 21st Space Wing Judge Advocate General deputy staff judge advocate, Maj. Brian Mason’s lap.

Mason represented Team Pete and the Air Force in the Aircom Tennis Championship, Sept. 19-23 at Decimomannu Air Base, Sardinia. He was part of a 12-player contingent consisting of men and women selected to play in the multinational event.

“I saw a flyer in the gym and thought, ‘I play tennis. Why not?’” Mason said.

He started playing tennis when he was just 10 years old. Mason continued the sport through middle school and beyond. He played both singles and doubles at Col. Zadok Magruder High School in his hometown of Rockville, Maryland. As a senior at Magruder, Mason was the 24th ranked singles player in the state and represented his school at the state tennis tournament.

At the University of Maryland, Mason said he wasn’t good enough to play Division I tennis, but he continued the sport recreationally. He didn’t play much for some time, but picked his racket back up about 10 years ago. In the Air Force, he started playing in base leagues and tournaments.

“I found that it was a way to meet people,” Mason said. “So I kept it up.”
When he visited the web page to apply for the Aircom team, it sunk in that this was not just a small, local event, but rather one where players would be selected from the ranks of all Airmen throughout the Air Force.

His application was submitted near the end of July and about a month later he heard back from Air Force Fitness & Sports that he was selected for a slot on the six-player men’s team. Soon he was on his way to a temporary duty assignment for a week of specialized sports training.

“I never thought I would do something like this,” Mason said. “I am not a world class athlete.”

The tournament team was fielded by Headquarters, Allied Air Component Command, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s air component, based at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The team trained for a week at Ramstein, then went on to Sardinia for the competition.

They waited in Italy in what he called a gorgeous tennis club. Also waiting were players from the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and Poland, each country part of NATO. Part of Aircom’s mission is to bring together nations within its traditional area of responsibility in an atmosphere of friendly sporting competition. The events reinforce mutual respect and goodwill that exists between NATO nations.

Most of his teammates were participating in an international event for the first time. They took the competition seriously, but even more seriously to them was presenting a positive perspective of U.S. Airmen.

“We tried to stay focused on tennis,” Mason said. “But we were there to give a good representation of the Air Force and Americans.”

Since it is an international event, the tournament employs many of the same components of the Olympic Games and world championships. One of those, the opening ceremony, made a deep impression on Mason and his fellow players.

The national anthem for each participating nation was played while the athletes marched in and waited for the other teams to enter the venue. Standing at center court in his Air Force uniform, Mason had a moment to reflect as the refrain of the Star Spangled Banner echoed through the facility.

“I felt proud. I had chills,” he said. “It was bigger than just us.”

The round-robin tournament began after a day of practice. The women’s team didn’t lose a single set on their way to the championship. Mason and the men’s team didn’t fare as well. The men tied with the U.K. and in a tie-breaker moved on to play Poland for the bronze medal.

In the end, tie-breakers would determine the outcome and by what Mason called the narrowest of margins, the Polish team won out.

In spite of the results, he said the experience was wonderful. Mason hopes to make the journey again in a couple of years when the event is hosted in the U.K.

The tennis was enjoyable, the location was stunning and he made some new friends, Mason said.

“They have a cool tradition in Europe,” he said. “They trade jerseys, so that was fun.”

He switched his with a member of the U.K. contingent and plans to keep in touch with some of his European counterparts.

Now, back at Peterson and into his typical routine, Mason is still amazed he had the chance to take part in such a unique experience. He’s not the only one. Lt. Col. Matt Stoffel, 21st Space Wing staff judge advocate, held him up as an example to co-workers about finding opportunity in the Air Force.

“Lt. Col. Stoffel said I am the poster child for not knowing what you can do unless you try,” Mason said.

Peterson SFB Schriever SFBCheyenne Mountain SFSThule AB New Boston SFS Kaena Point SFS Maui