A journey from basketball to air power

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Anabel Del Valle
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
While all Airmen wear the same uniform, each Airman has their own unique story that brought them to the service. Maj. Andrew Fingall, 325th Comptroller Squadron commander, has had a captivating journey of his own filled with basketball, family, and pure chance.

While he was born in Grenada, his family relocated to Brooklyn, New York, when he was 2 years old “chasing the American dream.” Fingall’s parents continued their careers once they transitioned to the United States, with his mother working as a secretary and his father working as a carpenter. His parents often worked two jobs to make ends meet as he grew up.

“You’ve got to put in the time if you want life to work out,” said Fingall. “We came to this country with nothing and they taught me you’ve got to get here and grind.”

During his high school years, Fingall found a passion that would shape his life and his hustle: basketball. Standing at 6 feet, 6 inches, he caught the attention of high school basketball coach, Bill Burger.

“I wasn’t playing sports at the time,” explained Fingall. “Coach said, ‘Hey, I want to bring you somewhere,’ and he introduced me Sandy Pyonin. Coach Sandy taught me the game side-by-side with players who were on a whole other caliber. Many went on to the National Basketball Association.”

As Fingall entered the challenging world of basketball, he realized other players had been training since they were children. He was late to the game. Coming from another country, he and his family had no idea that the goal of many young American athletes is to go Division 1, and the training begins early.

“One day Sandy asked me what I was going to do after graduation, I said I didn’t know,” said Fingall. “He looked at me and said ‘You’re going D1.’ I didn’t really know what D1 meant at the time, but from then on it was tournaments, camps, and games.”

Fingall accepted an offer to George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia after graduating high school in 1990. Following college, he was scouted to play in Europe and then China.

“After China, I had plans of going to play in Portugal but I was injured,” Fingall said. “I decided to return home and rest. So there I was, back at my parents’ house thinking ‘what happened?’ I didn’t know at the time that China was my last time playing basketball, but life just happens.”

Three months into being home, Fingall met his future wife through a mutual friend at a party. His friend gave her number to him on a small piece of paper he keeps in his wallet to this day. They now have three daughters and a son.

Retiring from basketball and starting a family pushed Fingall into a new career path. His goal was to work for the Federal Bureau of Investigations, but his application came back marked as non-competitive due to lack of experience.

“I didn’t know much about the military but I was working with a member of the National Guard who was explaining all the different jobs,” recalled Fingall. “It really peaked my interest. The idea was to enlist, get my feet wet with an intelligence job and resubmit my FBI application.”

While still educating himself on what the military had to offer, 9/11 happened. He joined shortly afterwards. Fingall collected newspapers on the streets of New York after the attacks. He has never read the inside news reports on that fateful day, but he holds the papers as keepsakes and a reminder of why he wears the uniform.

As Fingall made the transition from basketball jersey to camouflage, his new passion was to help his country project airpower. Nineteen years into his Air Force career, Fingall continues to serve with pride. His primary duty as the 325th CPTS commander is to ensure proper management of all financial functions of the 325th Fighter Wing, but his efforts do not end there.

Motivated by the relationships built on a deployment to Afghanistan in 2018, Fingall has been working with other government agencies and a team of people to help relocate his former Afghan counterparts into a safer environment.

“We built some pretty close relationships with some Afghans’ and their families,” said Fingall. “When we pulled out, their safety became an issue. For those that helped us, we have a commitment to help them.”

Fingall and his team have been able to relocate several Afghans so far, but the mission is ongoing.

Although all Airmen come from their own unique background, experiences and culture, they each raised their right hand and took an oath to serve. Like every service member, the circumstances that led Fingall to the service are unique, but no matter the differences, all Airmen share a commitment to the mission and the country it protects.