Soccer helps Airman be ‘Ready, Balanced, Better … Square-D Away’

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Micah Cummins, 100th Air Refueling Wing chief of protocol, poses for a photo Aug. 9, 2016, on RAF Mildenhall, England. Cummins has a stressful role in the military and enjoys soccer in his spare time as a way to keep fit and relax. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony)

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Micah Cummins, 100th Air Refueling Wing chief of protocol, poses for a photo Aug. 9, 2016, on RAF Mildenhall, England. Cummins has a stressful role in the military and enjoys soccer in his spare time as a way to keep fit and relax. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony)

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Micah Cummins, pictured with the soccer ball, 100th Air Refueling Wing chief of protocol, has possession of the ball during a game against the Marines at the All-Armed Forces Soccer Championships May 7, 2016, in Columbus, Georgia. Cummins and his team brought home the 13th Gold Medal for the Air Force. (Courtesy photo)

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Micah Cummins, pictured with the soccer ball, 100th Air Refueling Wing chief of protocol, has possession of the ball during a game against the Marines at the All-Armed Forces Soccer Championships May 7, 2016, in Columbus, Georgia. Cummins and his team brought home the 13th Gold Medal for the Air Force. (Courtesy photo)

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Micah Cummins, right, 100th Air Refueling Wing chief of protocol, poses for a photograph with U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Tim Bettes, left, 48th Force Support Squadron Career Development apprentice, after a game against the United Soccer League’s San Antonio Football Club at Toyota Field in San Antonio, Texas, May 4, 2016. Through his love of the sport, Cummins is able to meet many people from across the Air Force. (Courtesy photo)

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Micah Cummins, right, 100th Air Refueling Wing chief of protocol, poses for a photograph with U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Tim Bettes, left, 48th Force Support Squadron Career Development apprentice, after a game against the United Soccer League’s San Antonio Football Club at Toyota Field in San Antonio, Texas, May 4, 2016. Through his love of the sport, Cummins is able to meet many people from across the Air Force. (Courtesy photo)

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Micah Cummins, number 17, 100th Air Refueling Wing chief of protocol, runs by an All-Navy defender during the finals of the All-Armed Forces Championships May 15, 2016, in Columbus, Georgia. Cummins set up the first goal and scored the second, helping the Air Force defeat the Navy 3-2, bringing home the gold for the Air Force. (Courtesy photo)

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Micah Cummins, number 17, 100th Air Refueling Wing chief of protocol, runs by an All-Navy defender during the finals of the All-Armed Forces Championships May 15, 2016, in Columbus, Georgia. Cummins set up the first goal and scored the second, helping the Air Force defeat the Navy 3-2, bringing home the gold for the Air Force. (Courtesy photo)

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Micah Cummins, 100th Air Refueling Wing chief of protocol, poses for a photograph in his office Aug. 3, 2016, on RAF Mildenhall, England. Cummins’ father was a coach for youth soccer at night and he taught his son a sport that he still enjoys many years later. (U.S. Air Force photo by Gina Randall)

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Micah Cummins, 100th Air Refueling Wing chief of protocol, poses for a photograph in his office Aug. 3, 2016, on RAF Mildenhall, England. Cummins’ father was a coach for youth soccer at night and he taught his son a sport that he still enjoys many years later. (U.S. Air Force photo by Gina Randall)

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Micah Cummins, left, 100th Air Refueling Wing chief of protocol and U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ricky Ceballos, 100th Air Refueling Wing NCO in charge of protocol, check the itinerary for an upcoming distinguished visitor tour Aug. 3, 2016, on RAF Mildenhall, England. Cummins has a stressful role in the military and enjoys soccer in his spare time as a way to keep fit and relax. (U.S. Air Force photo by Gina Randall)

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Micah Cummins, left, 100th Air Refueling Wing chief of protocol and U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ricky Ceballos, 100th Air Refueling Wing NCO in charge of protocol, check the itinerary for an upcoming distinguished visitor tour Aug. 3, 2016, on RAF Mildenhall, England. Cummins has a stressful role in the military and enjoys soccer in his spare time as a way to keep fit and relax. (U.S. Air Force photo by Gina Randall)

RAF MILDENHALL, England -- While arriving at the protocol office, the phone rang. During the brief interview, it continued to ring three more times and the voice recorder is paused while the officer takes care of business. Waiting patiently for the interview to resume, there is a sense of just how busy the day is for these Airmen.

The 100th Air Refueling Wing chief of protocol, 1st Lt. Micah Cummins, realizes the importance of being ‘Ready, Balanced, Better ... Square-D Away’ and uses his love of a sport to help him as a husband, father, person, and as an Airman.

“In terms of being ready, you are getting fitter with a sport like this, rather than just being at the gym and running on a treadmill,” said Cummins. “I think it’s as balanced as you can be when you are out there on the field. I hope to be a good father and a good husband, that’s my number one goal.”

His role on base involves many moving parts which could lead to high stress levels.

“I organize distinguished visitor tours and brief Col. Torkelson (Col. Thomas Torkelson, 100th Air Refueling Wing commander), and wing leadership on upcoming events and visits,” Cummins said. “I enjoy the networking. You get to meet a lot of cool people who are doing some amazing things each and every day in their jobs. It really opens your eyes as to the scale and diversity of the mission that we have here at RAF Mildenhall.”

Friendship is important to Cummins, for both himself and his family. The stresses many people face can seem more manageable with people to share it with.

“It’s not just fitness to me, no matter what, you are out there making friends,” Cummins added. “I’m married to a wonderful and understanding woman, and we now have a 19-month-old son, who takes up most of our time. If my wife comes out to a game, she’s now networking with the other wives. It has nothing to do with ranks, that’s the beauty of it. There’s nothing else that matters, it’s just, ‘hey, do we get along?’ That’s what matters.”

Being raised in the military, the new places and new faces he has met every few years have shaped him into the man he is today.

“I come from a military family. I grew up being outside and playing sports for most of my life,” Cummins explained. “It’s one of those sports where all you need is a ball. You can kick it up against a wall, or you can kick it with a friend. For me growing up it was a fantastic opportunity to make friends.”

His teammates see the benefit a team sport has for young Airmen, who are serving their country far from their home. Cummins joins other Airmen from the tri-base area who share in his sentiments about the positive comradery the team provides.

“I really enjoy the opportunity the varsity soccer program provides for the Airmen. In my career, I have seen what an organized sporting team can do for the morale of the base,” said Maj. Douglas Grabowski, RAF Mildenhall’s Dental Clinic flight commander. “Many Airmen leave high school and join the Air Force with the background of a team that they played for, and they miss it. That's why I love the varsity soccer program. It gives that team opportunity to the Airmen that are far from home and their families. It fills the gap.”

Team sports are a way for newcomers to reach out to like-minded people in the country they now call home.

“England offers a unique opportunity for Airmen to foster community relationships by utilizing the host country’s most participated sport. In the states, soccer is an underrepresented sport which is trumped by nearly every other sport,” Grabowski added. “In England, we are playing the biggest sport in the country, and in doing so we are forging lasting relationships within the local communities. The local area looks forward to playing us and we cherish the opportunity to represent the tri-base community. As Americans, we might not have been the inventors of soccer, but we compete well with the local teams and clubs.”

The mission wouldn’t happen without a team, and all those individuals doing their part. From the most experienced pilots flying the jets, to the newest recruits nervously raising their hands and swearing to serve and protect their nation. The same applies on a soccer field. It takes each and every player to achieve those vital seconds of a goal being made. In that moment, rank is insignificant.

“It helps me appreciate the beauty of teamwork a little more and allows me to get out and meet some Airmen that I would never otherwise run into,” Cummins said. “Out on the soccer field, rank means nothing and that allows me to get a deeper connection to the Airmen outside of my normal day.”

Throughout his career, he has kept his love of the sport present, and used it when his stress levels were high.

“I enlisted, got assigned in Germany where I played soccer for a local German semi-pro team, Sportverein Mackenback, and worked at Landstuhl Army Hospital. After about a year, I decided to apply for a Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship and in 2010 I made my way to Detachment 390 at the University of Michigan to attend ROTC as a crosstown student from Oakland University,” Cummins said. “I was able to play soccer and captain the club team at my university, which was about all I had time for, since most of my time was spent in ROTC and studying for my classes. After four long and exhausting years of school and training, I was commissioned into the Air Force. I still can’t believe that I have been blessed with the opportunity to be an officer in the world’s greatest Air Force.”

All this effort and being ready for whatever life threw at him, made him better.

“The highlights for me were hearing my name announced at my first semi-professional game in Germany, it was surreal, the whole village came out and I was the only American on the team, so it was almost like living a dream!” exclaimed Cummins. “Another is playing in the All-Armed Forces Soccer Championships for the All-Air Force team this year and setting up the first goal, then scoring the second against the Navy in the finals.”

Even with the success he has had in soccer, his passion will always be the Air Force.

“No matter how far I go in the game, my first job is being a military member,” Cummins reflected.