Air Force Featured Stories

Airman wins on and off the court

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Veronica Perez
  • 20th Air Force Public Affairs
The Airman’s Creed is a promise to the U.S. and a rallying cry for Airmen to remain the world’s greatest Air Force. The words, “My mission is to fly, fight and win,” hold true for 20th Air Force’s Tech. Sgt. Corey Rucker, a world champion who embodies the creed both professionally and personally.

Rucker recently returned to Cheyenne, Wyoming from Belgium, after winning the 2017 SHAPE International Basketball Tournament playing for the U.S. Armed Forces Men’s Basketball Team. Team USA beat Canada, Great Britain, Latvia and Lithuania before dominating France in the championship game, 91-64, Dec. 2, 2017.

“Playing for the United States felt incredible,” said Rucker. “Getting to wear, ‘USA,’ on my chest while abroad gave me a huge sense of pride and feeling of accomplishment. Also, three of the five starting players were Airmen, so we felt like we represented our service very well.”

The U.S. team consisted of 12 service members from all branches of the military, to include active duty, Guard and Reserve. Rucker said the experience allowed him to make new friendships and strengthen his leadership skills.

“As one of the older players and highest enlisted member on the team, I was leaned on to lead. Whether it was just making sure that we were on time for practice, or making an adjustment in the game, I had plenty of opportunities to hone my leadership skills,” he said. “Additionally, dealing with members from five different military branches, while navigating in a foreign country, was a leadership experience that I gained a lot from.”

Team USA head coach Army Capt. Carl Little, St. Augustine’s University Army ROTC military science assistant professor, commented on how Rucker positively impacted the team and pushed them to overcome challenges on the court.

“As a veteran, Corey provided instrumental leadership in critical on-court situations,” said Little. “When the team needed a push, he was one of the first to step up and bring the team together to fight through adversity.”

Rucker, a native of Dayton, Ohio, also played for the Air Force’s team in 2014, winning the entire Armed Forces tournament for the eighth year in a row. He has been an athlete all his life and uses basketball as an outlet to help him maintain a good work-life balance.

“It’s a great workout, while also serving as a stress reliever when I need it,” he said. “With all of the changes and challenges the military throws at you, family and basketball have always been staples in my life.”

He plans to stay in the Air Force for as long as he can, following the footsteps of his father who retired as a master sergeant after serving in security forces and computer operations.

As the facility maintenance section lead for 20th Air Force, he uses his almost nine years of intercontential ballistic missile maintenance experience to enhance the maintenance operations of all three ICBM missile wings. Chief Master Sgt. Jason Hager, 20th Air Force Logistics chief, said Rucker is integral to A4 operations and is a great mentor to the other noncommissioned officers in the section.

“Corey is quiet, humble and holds himself accountable to an incredibly high standard,” Hager said. “He is a servant leader who is always willing to help anyone out without a complaint.”

Rucker is set to attend Officer Training School next year to become an acquisitions officer and further contribute to the Air Force’s mission to fly, fight and win. According to Hager, Rucker is well prepared for the acquisitions career field because he has worked with ICBM modernization programs during design reviews, developmental testing and deployment and he understands how to best equip the warfighter for mission success.

Rucker attributes his accomplishments to his relationship with his parents, his wife’s unwavering support and front line supervisors and mentors who have guided him throughout his career.

“I’ve always had a strong work ethic and an enormous sense of pride in my reputation,” he added. “In every position I find myself in, I strive to be excellent.”