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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Observer

Air Force ROTC hosts Flyin' Irish basketball tournament

The Notre Dame Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) hosted more than 500 cadets from 28 schools this weekend for the 31st Flyin’ Irish Invitational Basketball Tournament.

Sophomore David Carmack, the public affairs officer for the event, said the event has expanded since its inception in 1985 to include teams from ROTC programs throughout the country, but it has remained grounded in its roots at the University.

“It started off as a couple of people from Air Force ROTC; [they] got together at Notre Dame, and they decided to create a basketball tournament, and it’s grown exponentially since this year,” he said. “We [had] 50 teams this year [and] a couple [were] local. We [had] the local Army, the local Navy and obviously the local Air Force making a couple of teams.”

One reason for the tournament’s growth, Carmack said, is the bond created between ROTC cadets during group field training trips.

“It has really grown a lot by word of mouth,” he said. “For instance, between sophomore and junior years of college, for Air Force ROTC cadets, everybody goes down to Alabama for that age group for field training. And through that, everyone gets to know each other, and so there [are] a lot of circles of friends, and through that the basketball tournament has spread.”

While the tournament take plenty of time to organize, Carmack said, the cadets receive plenty of support from the members of the Notre Dame community.

“Notre Dame’s been really friendly with letting us use the courts,” he said. “They know we’re scheduling it. And also, actually, [men’s basketball head coach] Mike Brey is a big fan of it [so] he often comes and watches. … They have their time off, and he likes to come by, sit down and watch some games. It’s not the highest level of play, but it’s very entertaining.”

Carmack said the tournament was well-attended by Notre Dame students, as well as the visiting cadets.

“Obviously, we have some friends of cadets here who [came] to watch, but one of the cool things is … there’s a cool connection because it’s kids from all over the country who [came],” he said. “So it’s a great connection.”

Considering the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets team beat the Wisconsin Flyin’ Badgers in the men’s championship, and the Marquette Golden Eagles Army ROTC defeated the Ohio State Buckeye Battalion in the women’s championship, Carmack said it would be advantageous for the tournament to include a live stream in future years.

“We’re looking to possibly set that up in the future, which would be a really cool thing because there are teams from Iowa or wherever they’re coming from,” he said. “Texas A&M [flew] in — they can’t all come and watch their detachment, so that’s something that we’re looking to set up in the future. So it has a lot of room for growth. As much as it’s grown, there’s always more we can do.”

Because the Notre Dame Air Force ROTC cadets primarily organize the tournament, Carmack said it provided a great opportunity to develop professional skills.

“It also is a great opportunity for local Notre Dame cadets to get involved in leadership positions in the wing,” he said. “So, for example, me or any other cadet — this is a good opportunity for us to have experience in organizing things and having responsibilities. … It helps professional development, also.”

Carmack said the biggest advantage of the tournament, though, is the chance to get to know cadets from all around the country.

“Getting cadets all together — it’s mostly Air Force that comes, but there’s Iowa State Army, Wisconsin Air Force, Purdue Navy,” he said. “Even though we all might not be going to the same branch of military when we graduate, we’re kind of creating a bond and meeting each other and making good connections for our future.”