The squeak of rubber soles running down the Murphy Field House basketball court accompanied the shouts of plays being called.
It was the final game for the Royal British Army Medical Services basketball team on Fort Meade and its first matchup with the Fort Meade Patriots.
The game was part of a 10-day tour named “Operation Serpent Dunk,” which gave the AMS basketball team the opportunity to play three games on post to train for the international Inter Corps Tournament in October in Belgium.
Capt. Wayne Douglas, a medical support officer in the Royal Army Medical Corps, helped plan the tour and acted as the AMS basketball secretary and team manager for the duration of the 10 days.
“This is a 10-day training camp for [the team] to enhance their basketball skills,” Douglas said. “America is the home of basketball. Therefore, it makes sense to come to America where you can play teams that have a slightly better grade than yourself to help develop your game and the team itself.”
The tour was named “Serpent Dunk because it’s basketball, so you dunk and it’s serpent because [they’re] medics,” Douglas said.
“If you look at the cap badge of a medic, it will always have the staff and the serpent on it. Therefore, all exercises conducted by medics are normally given the serpent name. So, it’s called Serpent Dunk.”
Douglas has been working since April to ensure that this tour runs smoothly.
The AMS team is made up of servicemen from the Royal Army Medical Corps, Queen Alexandra’s Nursing Corps, the Veteran Corps and the Dental Corps. The total years of service for the team members range from two to 15 years.
“They’re working in lots of different places,” Douglas said. “Then you bring them together as a team to do something like this to get them gelled before they go and play somewhere else. It’s good stuff.”
Servicemen in the Royal British Army Medical Services who play basketball for their respective unit and compete in the annual unit tournament are eligible to try out for the corps team, which will compete at the inter corps competition in October.
“In order for us to do well in that competition, we’re spending September in the U.S. to make the team stronger and better,” Douglas said. “So when we go back in October, we should hopefully have a good result.”
Kyle Gordon of the Defense Medical Group South in Portsmouth, England, said he tried out for the AMS team because he is “passionate about this sport.”
For Gordon, the opportunity to train together for 10 days helped highlight the team’s strengths and weaknesses.
“It was challenging [to come together as a team] because we don’t really see each other,” he said. “But once we started playing, basketball took over.”
Playing To Learn
Over the past 10 days, the AMS team played against Fort Meade’s Defense Media Activity and Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center teams, as well as the Fort Meade Patriots basketball team.
While they didn’t walk away with any wins, Sgt. Lindy Pinel of the 3rd Signal Regiment from Salisbury, England, said winning wasn’t the point of this tour.
“We were not here to win, but to learn,” Pinel said. “If we won, it would have been a bonus.”
The AMS is Pinel’s team. He has been playing with the team since its inception and helped form the team 15 years ago.
For Pinel, this tour helped challenge his men by playing against different people.
“It encourages my guys to learn better and to get something from this tour by playing against individuals above their level,” he said. “I think we’ve achieved that even if we’ve lost all three games.”
AMS members trained on the court and in the gym over the course of the tour, training that they normally don’t do.
“The goal of this tour is the development of the AMS basketball team,” Douglas said. “I hope it gives the team better cohesion and gives them the opportunity to experience basketball at a better level then they’re used to. We want to leave here with a more cohesive team that plays better.”
However, there was another reason for Operation Serpent Dunk.
“This tour is also giving us a chance to engage [with our American counterparts],” Douglas said. “When you come and do something like this, it gives you a chance to engage with American service personnel in sports, rather than at a work level.”
Stepping Onto The Court
The camaraderie between AMS and the Patriots was tangible during their game Friday night at Murphy Field House.
Beth Downs, the sports specialist at Fort Meade’s Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, helped organize the 10-day tour and attended all of the games.
“It was great working with the British Army Medical Services team. It was a unique opportunity,” Downs said. “There was a sense of unity and camaraderie between the British and Fort Meade teams.”
The AMS team was dressed in red, gold and white, while the Patriots donned red, white and blue uniforms.
The Patriots didn’t give anything away, making the AMS team work hard for all 40 minutes of the game. The Patriots played tight defense and capitalized on their speed and ball control to take a 47-25 lead at halftime.
Patriots’ Tyler Francis led the team with 22 points while AMS’ Gordon scored 18 points.
Instead of playing the usual 12-minute four quarters, the game was broken into two 20-minute halves.
Douglas paced the sidelines as his team ran up and down the court.
“We know this is a higher level of play,” he said. “These games are about developing play, not about winning.”
After the game, players from both teams talked to each other and then gathered for a group picture.
For Pinel, the tour helped him figure out what to work on as his team prepares for the inter corps tournament.
“For me, what I’ve learned here and what I want to take back with me is shooting, choosing the correct passes and absolutely making the guys gel as a team,” he said.