HEIDELBERG, Germany — With the return of V Corps soldiers from Afghanistan Aug. 1, the Heidelberg Lady Generals basketball team got their head coach back.
Among the families and friends waiting at the Patton Fitness Center gym late Sunday evening to welcome the soldiers back from a one-year deployment were Patricia Jameson and her son, Lenny, age 4. The pair helped decorate and hang signs to welcome returning soldiers, both anxiously awaiting the moment when they would see Army Chief Warrant Officer Michael Townsel.
“It’s been a long year. It’s been lonely but we have been able to communicate,” Jameson said. “The years before we have coached the community basketball team together, the Lady Generals, so this year during his absence I coached by myself with another former player. Just being around the team kind of helped me to deal with the separation and I tried to stay busy with work, but now it’s time.”
Jameson and Townsel met through basketball, when Townsel was a coach and Jameson was a player.
“We saw each other at a tournament before in Bamberg, but we didn’t know each other,” Jameson said. “He became the coach in Heidelberg and I ended up playing for him and the next thing we know we fell in love, you know, the whole works.”
Although Lenny is not Townsel’s biological child, that didn’t dampen his excitement to be reunited with his role model.
“We have been cleaning up for him and I am going to give him a surprise, a horse, my favorite stuffed animal,” Lenny said.
As the ceremony began, V Corps soldiers filed into the gym and families immediately got to their feet and began cheering for the warriors. In formation, soldiers eyes were wandering and families desperately tried to pick out their loved ones. Jameson locked in on Townsel very quickly.
“Some 13 months ago, the Department of the Army called upon V Corps to stand up the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command,” said Army Lt. Col. Matthew Rasmussen, V Corps Special Troops Battalion commander. “With two months notice, most of you were alerted and on a plane, arriving at a place that was just beginning to develop. From day one, most of you accomplished missions well outside your expertise, but you persevered. You got it done.”
After the ceremony the bleachers emptied and players from the Lady Generals joined Jameson and Lenny to greet and welcome Townsel home.
“It feels fantastic to be back after 12 months,” Townsel said. “It’s been a long 12 months and a lot of long hours, probably about 15-16 hours a day. V Corps built the International Joint Command from the bottom up and I am looking forward to being back, relaxing a bit and co-coaching with my fiancé (Jameson). It’s fantastic that all these ladies that I coached before came out to see me and welcome me home. It’s just great.”
His players can’t wait to get him on the court.
“We are going to hopefully get him into practice and get him practicing with our squad,” said Amelia Tillman of the Lady Generals. “He is a good person, a good coach and an excellent mentor. For him to dedicate his time and energy to the Lady Generals and also still be a soldier and have to deploy and support his country. I am just really grateful. We still have two other soldiers on our team that are ‘downrange,’ so our family isn’t complete yet, but it’s good to have our coach back.”