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Robins lieutenant soars to great heights both on, off court

1st Lt. Tysen Pina an Airborne Weapons Officer with the 128th Airborne Command and Control Squadron slam dunks the ball against the All-Navy team during the All-Armed Services tournament. (Courtesy Photo)

1st Lt. Tysen Pina an Airborne Weapons Officer with the 128th Airborne Command and Control Squadron slam dunks the ball against the All-Navy team during the All-Armed Services tournament. (Courtesy Photo)

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Sometimes a little motivation is needed.

This was the case for an Airborne Weapons officer who was recently selected for the All-Armed Services team after helping the Air Force team go 5-1 and win a gold medal in the All-Armed Forces tournament.

1st Lt. Tysen Pina's motivation came in the way of disappointment when he was cut from his 7th and 8th grade school basketball teams and it has stuck with him for years.

"(Being cut) fueled me for a long time and I lead my recreation league teams both years in scoring and one to a championship," said the Roswell, Ga. native. "My dad coached me in 8th grade and I finally made the 9th grade team."

His motivation turned into a successful career including many broken records at Sequoyah High School in Canton, Ga., Four years of varsity at the Air Force Academy, selection to the All Armed Service Team in 2004 and he won the gold medal in the SHAPE International Tourney in Mons, Belgium. (Despite being selected to this year's squad, Pina could not participate in the tournament due to work commitments.)

"I had several offers to play in college but I chose the Air Force Academy because I wanted to be a pilot," said the 128th Airborne Command and Control Squadron member. "Basketball has always been second in my life; when I was younger, baseball
was my first love and as I matured flying became my passion but it was always there when I needed it."

The Power Forward and Center competes for a few simple reasons.

"(I compete) because competition is in all we do in the Air Force and I feel basketball sharpens my skills on the jet," said Pina. "All the lessons learned on the court can be directly applied in the air. It's the reason I love doing what I do, everyday is different and full of different pressure filled challenges, scenarios and crews."

While basketball helps sharpen his job skills, his job helps him keep a good outlook on the game.

"Flying also puts basketball into perspective as just a game," said Pina. "The loser gets to go home to there families, but in war the loser doesn't go home. It kind of takes the pressure off of missing a free throw."

Before competing on the All-Air Force team the lieutenant keeps his skills honed with a rigorous training schedule.

"When I'm getting ready for All-Air Force, I'm in the gym at 5:30 a.m. every morning lifting and getting shots up before work," said Pina. "I would play for three or four hours with the guys. Then go home to eat and lastly a distance run before bed time."

The accomplished athlete's success could not have been possible without those around him.

"My supervisor, Capt. Scott Greathouse, was instrumental in helping me to get ready, he allowed me to work through lunch some days in order to get out an hour early so I could lift before playing in the afternoons," said Pina. "My squadron supported me the whole
way. My commander, Lt. Col. Joseph Schmidt, was at almost every game and fully supported the application process, my director of operations, Lt. Col. Christopher Edling, was in it all the way. It went all the way down to the airmen in my shop, Senior Airmen Timothy Walseth and Wallace Cloudy, where in on it."

Lt. Pina gives some insight of what he felt when first competing at the All-Air Force level.

"At first I felt an overwhelming dislike and wanted to crush every team out there," said Pina. "But by the end there was definitely a sense of respect among all of the players. Don't get me wrong we all wanted to beat the other team because of bragging rights, but there was a bond that we all shared from being in the military and it was evident in the way each team played."

The game has been a part of the lieutenant's life since he was a kid but he still knows what really matters.

"People ask me all the time why I didn't go to a bigger college or why didn't I try to play pro ball overseas, the reason is simple," said Pina. "It takes a lot of want and desire to play basketball day in and day out especially at the college and at the pro level and I love other things. I love flying, I love my family, I love my fiancée, I love the Air Force, I love my dogs, I love my truck, then I love Basketball and all the talent in the world couldn't overcome putting all those things ahead of the game."