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Once homeless Air Guard basketball star shoots to inspire others

Staff Sgt. Charmaine Clark

Staff Sgt. Charmaine Clark

SSgt Charmaine Clark photos for feature story

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Charmaine Clark, a non-destructive inspections specialist assigned to the 116th Maintenance Squadron, 116th Air Control Wing, Georgia Air National Guard, uses penetrate that glows under blacklight to identify damage on parts from an E-8C Joint STARS aircraft, Robins Air Force Base, Ga, Aug. 8, 2017. Non-destructive inspections Airmen use a variety of equipment that can detect some of the smallest chips, cracks or imperfections on almost every part of the E-8C aircraft including x-ray machines. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Caila Arahood)

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga --

At 5 feet 11 inches tall, most people wouldn’t be surprised to find out she was once a professional basketball player, but there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to this Air National Guardsman.

 

Staff Sgt. Charmaine Clark, a 116th Maintenance Squadron non-destructive inspection technician with the Georgia Air National Guard’s 116th Air Control Wing, has faced some challenges in her life; however, she has overcome them and directed her life-experiences and life-lessons into helping and inspiring others.

 

The attention-to-detail, discipline and selflessness she learned on the basketball court has been an asset to her fellow Airmen and the All-Air Force Women’s Basketball Team, as well as her friends, family and those she serves in the community through a non-profit organization she developed.

 

“My main mission is community outreach and youth mentorship,” said Clark.

Recently, Clark organized a “Back-to-School Bash” in her hometown of Hinesville, Georgia, where she hosted a basketball clinic and along with other volunteers gave out over 120 book-bags full of school supplies and dozens of pairs of shoes to children less-fortunate.

“I try to bring a lot of my peers and younger kids along with me to a lot of the events I do so they can see that this world is bigger than them, and people do have a lot going on in their lives that you may not see, but you can be there to help them through,” said Clark.

Her supervisor, Master Sgt. Herbert Tilley, shared how Clark’s efforts are making a real difference.

 

“Charmaine's actions bring about change both for society and those around her,” said Tilley. “Without a doubt, she’s a catalyst for good that others see, and they want to be a part of.”

 

Brandi Lewis, Clark’s friend and former Robins Air Force Base intramural basketball teammate, is one of those people.

 

“I’ve attended several of Charmaine’s community events and not only is it a blessing to those she’s helping, but also inspiring for her friends and family,” said Lewis. “She inspires those around her to better themselves and to go out and make a difference.”

 

In 2011, Clark enlisted in the Georgia Air National Guard following her basketball career at the University of Miami and after a year playing professionally in Iceland. Influenced by both her parents service in the Army, and seeking a structured and stable lifestyle, Clark decided the military offered a chance to do something even greater with her life.

“At the University of Miami, I majored in business administration,” said Clark. “When I joined the Guard, I wanted something different and challenging, so I chose maintenance.”

 

“Throughout my service in the military, I’ve learned how important my job is to the Air Force as a whole and that my job is

much bigger than me,” said Clark.

 

While Clark became qualified in her Air Force career field, she returned to her roots and began playing basketball for the Robins Air Force Base women’s intramural team.

With the encouragement of her squadron leadership, she earned a spot on the All-Air Force Women’s Basketball Team and represented the Air National Guard during the 2016 Armed Forces Tournament. Averaging 16 points a game, she helped her team to a third place finish. Her determination, selflessness and skill on the court earned her the opportunity to return and play for the All-Air Force team in the upcoming Armed Forces championship later in 2017.

“On the court, she’s determined and focused,” said Lewis. “She always remains uplifting to her fellow teammates and is the epitome of a wingman and role model to those around her because everything she does is from her heart.”

 

According to Clark, some of her drive to live out her motto, “Leave Your Mark,” comes from a difficult time in her life.

“Based on some of my own personal decisions and some unforeseen circumstances, I was homeless for a period of time in my adult life,” said Clark. “I’ve also been robbed.”

“I try to do whatever I can to give people hope and let them know they can become anybody and do anything, and no matter what their circumstances or environment they can still become a better person through it all,” said Clark.