SAN ANTONIO -- Presidio of Monterey's 1st Lt. Michelle Ambuul tough-nosed hoops skills helped the All-Army women secure silver at the 2017 Armed Forces Basketball Championships. Literally.
As if getting her nose broken during training camp Oct. 10 at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, was not enough to overcome, Ambuul got whacked again the following week during an intra-squad scrimmage at Fort Hood, Texas.
A nose broken twice in as many weeks would make many athletes retreat from competition, but Ambuul donned a protective mask and played All-Army's last four games of the seven-day tournament at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.
All-Navy (6-1) defeated All-Army (4-3), 79-63, in the women's gold-medal game Nov. 7 at Chaparral Fitness Center.
The tournament was perhaps the last hurrah as a competitive basketball player for Ambuul, 30, who serves as Associate Dean of the Persian Farsi School at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center.
"I think this is the last time I'll play competitive basketball at a high level," she said. "I have other priorities that I want to focus on. And the older you get, the harder it is on your body. I'm definitely learning that the hard way. I just want to go out strong."
Despite a delivery delay of her mask, Ambull managed to play in Army's last four games. She collected 10 rebounds during Army's 95-37 win over the Marines Nov. 4.
Broken noses were growing old for the Ambuul, who was an All-Armed Forces basketball selection in 2012.
"Once in Germany, when I was 22 or 23," she recalled of her previous facial injuries. "All the rest were in college between 2005 and 2009."
Both of the most recent fractures happened after Ambuul secured a rebound, only to catch an elbow to the face in the process. This time, Ambuul predicted she had "at least a deviated septum" because she couldn't breathe very well.
In college, Ambuul was one of the leading three-point shooters in the Rocky Mountain Conference for the NCAA Division II Colorado State University-Pueblo ThunderWolves. In high school, she averaged 20.6 points and 5.1 rebounds as a senior and was named Colorado Springs' Player of the Year by The Gazette.
"Everyone who plays a sport always has that passion and that drive to do it," Ambuul said. "I said I was going to stop playing a while ago, and look where I'm at today."
Ambuul appreciated the encouragement of her chain of command at the 229th Military Intelligence Battalion: her company commander Capt. Brandon Peer and Lt. Col. Toni Sabo, battalion commander
"They told me to go out there and do well and make them proud," Ambuul said. "I really love the job that I'm in right now and I'm thankful to be a part of the community."
The Presidio and DLIFLC are a small community with a training mission of teaching foreign languages to service members in a compressed time period. Looking out for each other's interests is automatic, Peer said.
"She was very concerned about leaving the school and her dogs for such an extended period of time," he said of Ambuul's worries. "This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for her and if we have Soldiers pass up these amazing moments because of a sense of duty and selflessly not wanting others to need to fill in we really do a disservice to those special talents that are out there."