My NFL/USO trip is over and I'm sad to have it end so soon.
Everyone on every stage of our trip made it a fantastic time. All the troops were so nice to show us around and answer all our questions, we felt bad at times because they had to stop working to entertain us. I was told they were happy for the break, but a special thank you goes out to all the service men and women who saw us and took time out of their day to make my trip so fun. It was great to have football to talk about and build that common bond.
I was able to see two more bases during the last four days of my trip. One was an airbase in the Middle East, and the other was a Navy base in Djibouti.
The airbase was a great experience. They allowed us to visit the flight line and see all of their aircrafts – from refueling planes, communication planes, to UAVs, U-2 spy planes and fighter jets. The highlight for me was to walk around the F-22 and be able to compare that with the F-15. Both are some of the best aircrafts in existence. I whined and begged for a ride in one of the jets, but it just wasn't in the cards. The U-2 spy plane was also fascinating because it's been around for 50 years and still used to this day.
The flights into Djibouti were pretty awful. It's a short distance, but we took a longer route to avoid a layover in Yemen. This part of the trip was funny because we linked up with other troops and contractors and laughed about our expectations of our airline and what Djibouti would be like. It's so inspiring to see people in good spirits right before a deployment and after 20-plus hours of travel.
The Navy base was enjoyable. One memorable moment was when some members of an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) got peer pressured into the combine test of bench press max reps at 225 pounds. I was left humbled and impressed as everyone ether matched or handily beat what I did at my pro day.
A highlight of the Navy base was when we were invited to the Chiefs Mess. It's where senior enlisted soldiers hang out; not officers, but guys with tons of experience and those who have devoted their lives to be among some of the working class soldiers (forgive my heavy-handed explanation of enlisted vs. commissioned soldiers). It was great to sit down with a 32-year veteran on the doorstep of his retirement and hear his stories and opinions. He's been around a long time and was able to give us a good feeling for how the times have changed.
Overall my USO tour was an amazing experience. Each base is so different and the people were always so engaging. I would happily go on another USO tour.
Once again, thank you to everyone for making the trip fun and safe.