Mack Brown Middle East Coaches Tour blog
Head coach Mack Brown has headed to the Middle East to visit our troops as part of the Coaches Tour 2009 presented by Armed Forces Entertainment. Coach Brown will be providing insight as often as he can to keep the Longhorns faithful abreast of how things are going.
Final entry (June 5, 2009): I got back to Austin last night at 8:15 p.m. It’s a long day from Rota Air Force Base in Spain to Austin. I definitely learned that when you that travel overseas, jetlag is tough. I'm tired but still on an emotional high about the trip. We headed to Dallas this morning for a luncheon. Colonel Weiss, who was in charge of our flights during the trip, said I would feel okay today until this afternoon and then be very tired Saturday and Sunday. I really don't have time to be tired for the weekend because we are all excited about our new freshmen being on campus, the state track meet on campus and our first mini-camp on our the new turf in the stadium on Sunday. What a weekend we have ahead of us and I'm really looking forward to it.
Entry #32 (June 4, 2009): I just landed in Dallas at about 7 p.m. (3 a.m. In Iraq). I'm tired and my body clock is out of whack but it's great to be home. I'll be back in Austin soon. The trip reminded me how much I love Sally, our family, my friends and our players and coaches. I really missed everyone and look forward to seeing you all. I can't wait to get back to work. The trip back took around eight hours. The pilots and crews are really amazing in our Air Force and our technology is the best in the world. I wish everyone could experience what we just did. You would feel very safe. I have been pretty hard on the KC-135 cargo plane we've been flying so much and for so many hours. We're definitely spoiled in the way we're used to traveling, but the KC-135 had some outstanding years as a key military plane and served a significant role. It's a huge plane that allows the military to transport a lot of people safely, refuel other plans and carry cargo. But the one we were on for most of our trip was built in 1961. They told us they started building them in 1956, so it's definitely been a durable and versatile aircraft for a long time, but technology and air transportation has improved so much since then. I look forward to the day for the Air Force that we can afford to bring the 135 up to the modern standard of the C-17's. We need to make sure through whatever means that we always pay for only the best for the best military in the world. I think it's important that we always support and appreciate the military for the freedom we enjoy every day. I've got a number of thoughts as I try to reflect on the trip and I'll gather and share those with you soon.
Entry #31 (June 4, 2009): It’s almost 10 a.m. in Spain, and we are headed to the plane. We've had a great week, but the coaches can't wait to get back to America and see our families, friends and players. A trip like this really makes you appreciate what we have at home. The Rota Navy Base has a few thousand military personnel and is very important for refueling our planes headed to the Middle East. It is really beautiful, right on the ocean, and very dry. You might think you were in South Florida. Coach Tressel and I thought about starting a Division II football team here because it is so pretty. This is a long way from Balad. As unique as each base has been, they each have their own beauty and importance because of their mission and the wonderful people we have met. With another nine-hour flight ahead, we’re totally exhausted, but excited about the trip and getting back home. Hook ‘em, Mack Brown
Entry #30 (June 3, 2009): I did want to mention Ish, one of the airmen on the KC-135. He is a huge Texas fan and even has a Longhorn tattooed on his arm. He was so nice and thoughtful that he got an Air Force hat for me with Longhorns and Hook 'Em Horns monogrammed on it. I have worn it a few days, but as special as it was for me, I signed it and ask him to wear it and stay safe. God bless our troops. Good night! The pro baseball game is just coming on. It is hard to keep up with sports over here.
Entry #29 (June 3, 2009): We just had a two-hour meet and greet at Rota Navy Base. We have an American presence, but it is a Spanish base. It is the halfway point for our airmen to refuel headed to Baghdad. This was also the area where Christopher Columbus started his voyage to America. This was an extra special night because we've had great interaction with the crew of the KC-135, and they were able to help us at the signing function and then went to dinner. These are all guys who work as hard as anyone in America and they make us feel safe and have waited on us hand and foot. Let me assure you we have been a handful. After spending a great week with these guys we will really miss them. Colonel Shock has been in charge of our trip has taken good care of us, and it’s been fun. I have given him a rough time all week. Colonel Bart Weiss is in charge of our crew and plane. He is first class, runs the crew like a football staff, and the two have made our trip one to remember. You can imagine how hard it would be to get us into and out of all the countries we've visited in a week. Colonel Weiss was a great quarterback at Air Force and ended his career in the Heisman Race. That shows you guys if you can learn to lead now, it can help carry you the rest of your life. The top leaders we've visited have all said you must develop leadership. It just doesn't happen or stay sharp without working at it. The thing we need in my opinion to be a super team next year is to make sure our best leaders step up. This has been a week about strong leaders, passion, discipline, attitude, toughness and team. So as we get ready for our nine-hour trip home in the a.m., a big thanks to the guys who made us feel so comfortable during our week away from our country, our family and our players. Like all the other stops, the base at Rota treated us first class. It is 1 a.m. here and 6 p.m. at home in the great state of Texas! After a nine-hour flight today, I will sure sleep well tonight. See you in the a.m.
Entry #28 (June 3, 2009): I must admit that Coach Rick Neuheisel was the assisting editor on our history lesson as we were flying to Spain. The coaches have had a great time together and watching the coaches greet the troops reinforces how much we all like young people. The military is very much like running a football program with the "big" exception of war. The KC-135 is a unique plane. Without climate control we were burning up on the runway in Africa and now we are freezing as we land in Spain. You could change clothes two to three times on one trip. That is why it is a cargo and not a passenger plane. We just landed in Spain! Now we will go do another meet and greet with the troops. It is 66 degrees in Spain, which is a long ways from the 117-degree heat index in Africa. We all seem to be doing pretty well with our health and our attitudes. It is amazing we aren't all sick. I've washed my hands more because we have been in touch with so many people in so many different countries, and I've drunk more water to prevent dehydration in the intense heat, than at any time in my life. We are on the ground in Spain. It is 6:00 p.m. here and 11:00 a.m. in Austin. Back to work.
Entry #27 (June 3, 2009): Now we are in the air again. I did forget to tell you when we were in Turkey we were an hour from where Noah had the Arc in The Black Sea and a good 3-iron from Russia. Some might need to use a driver. As we left this a.m., we were eight miles in our van from the Somalian border when we headed to the airport, and of course that is where we all remember, "Black Hawk Down." Now we just flew over Egypt and The Mediterranean Sea, we will cross over Athens, Greece, "Home of the Olympic Games," then over Sicily, Italy, and then into the SW corner of Spain to the Rota Navy Base. We will be right across the bay from Morocco the home of Casablanca. What an experience. I will check in from Spain.
Entry #26 (June 3, 2009): As we ate breakfast with the airmen this morning, once again we enjoyed talking about the preseason rankings, BCS ratings and who will win it all. As far as Djibouti is concerned, it was very hot when we got out of bed at 5 a.m. and it was also very smoky because they burn their trash. There were also French planes from next door that flew fighter jets all night. That was very loud and made sleeping difficult. A group from the Japanese Navy came to the base a few days ago. It was great to meet them and there was a lot of autograph signing and picture taking. They said they were all pulling for the Longhorns. There were a lot of moving parts on this trip, but it was fun. We went thru parts of town as we were leaving and it was tough to look at. We feel spoiled when you see a mom and two struggling kids standing by the road starving waiting on the bottle water – water that is likely contaminated. There are also houses made out of cardboard or some rocks the families pick up off the streets. They are really struggling and living in very difficult conditions over here. Appreciate what you have.
Entry #25 (June 3, 2009): We woke 5 a.m. this morning, put our bags on the plane at 5:45, and ate breakfast with the troops at 6:00. You quickly learn that the military eats well and sleeps very little. We hear stories about troops who will work a 12-hour day, get home and go volunteer to help another unit. The longer we stay, the more you appreciate the code of honor, strength, discipline, courage, passion and family! Be careful when you address our military personnel to call them by their proper branch of the military name. Our Navy and the Coast Guard are sailors, Marines are Marines, the Army we call soldiers, and Air Force are airmen. It is important to these groups that we address them properly so let's do it to honor them. I've been very impressed with so many things on our trip. We are all exhausted but are running on high energy because of all we've seen, learned and applaud. Very little is said about our women or our reserves in the military. We have a lot of young women protecting our country as well, many of who are great leaders. Let me assure you they are just as tough as the men and fighting for our country. Like the ladies, our reserve units make a huge difference in our military success and don't seem to get the credit they deserve. These young people may need to leave their friends and family on as short as an hour’s notice to aid in rescues or missions. We toured the rescue unit this a.m., and again they were at the top of their game. We are once again leaving with a great feeling of joy about the safety of our country. Djibouti is amazing when we think of the location. This area could be very important to American safety in our future in Africa. We need to keep a presence there, and by the progress we have seen on this base, it is well on the way to be a great base in the future.
Entry #24 (June 2, 2009): After we got our history lesson we had a punt, pass and kick contest with two talented guys coming away with the win, followed by another flag football game. The guys once again played like Texas-OU. We did still lose the flag football game, but it was on field turf and was run very well. We went immediately back to the eating area and signed autographs and took pictures for three hours. This base was more about trying to help a country try and get on their feet. Unlike Balad and Baghdad, these troops should be much safer. The trip today seemed like a great success. At each stop, the people just have been fun to deal with. It is now 12:40 p.m. and I need to get to bed. We are eating with the servicemen and women at 6 a.m., so I better sleep fast. After breakfast we are back on the KC-135 for a nine-hour trip to Rota, Spain. I will check in from there. I will be on the plane most of the day. When we get to Spain we will meet and greet again. Tomorrow will be another long day because the plane isn't climate controlled and can be very hot or cold. I will leave you with one new thought. The Admiral did say that the troops usually handle the base well, but their families can feel isolated and lonesome at home with kids. Let's find a military family in America in your neighborhood or town and make sure we reach out and give them a hand. They are sacrificing as well.
Entry #23 (June 2, 2009): The country of Djibouti has a population less than Austin. The city has 400,000, but the country has only 600,000, smaller than Austin. The country is very poor. There are facts stating that unemployment is between 60-75 percent. We are scared to death when ours is starting to get above eight percent. They are surrounded by Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan, and across the straight water route control so much of the international trade. Ninety-five percent is done by ship, so this is a very important spot for our ships to flow thru. Yemen and Saudi Arabia are across canal, and we also must protect our ships from the pirates. I made light of that earlier, but it is obviously very serious. The country is so poor that our troops are helping in many ways in the city and country to help the people get on their feet. There isn't a strong economic self-sufficient support system. We hire locals and the base helps their economy.
Entry #22 (June 2, 2009): We’re eight hours ahead of Austin in Djibouti. We've had another full day. Djibouti is a tough place. It had a heat index of 117 and has a very bad insect problem. As I said before, we have been taking malaria pills for more than a week. They say the malaria can hide in your body and show up later after the medicine is gone. We also had to put on spray to keep the insects and bugs away. We are back to single rooms tonight, so the coaches are speaking again. It will be hot when we sleep tonight. We met with the Admiral, a Navy man for a long time upon our arrival. The leaders at every base have been so giving, and you all should good about the folks leading our military. This base is about four years old. It is our only base we have in Africa and is growing very fast. There are only 2,400 military personnel on the base, but they've hired 1,000 locals. Our country is helping other countries much more than we get credit for. I hope someday they get credit for what we are doing.
Entry #21 (June 2, 2009): We got back on our KC-135 and had a three-and-a-half hour flight to the town of Djibouti in the country of Djibouti, Africa. We flew over the Red Sea to get here. The last five days, we have been on four continents. We have been moving around. We just got off the plane and it is obviously more humid here. We aren't sure of our schedule because the heat will determine some of it. It is now 3:40 p.m. here as compared to 7:40 a.m. in Austin. The time difference and jet lag continue to be tough. I called my wife Sally yesterday and asked her what she was doing for dinner, and she reminded me that it was 10 a.m. - a different life. We are headed to our places to stay. After Saddam's palace for two days, what could be next? We are going to grab a bite to eat before we go back to work. Each base has been so nice and you can tell they appreciate us being here. This country is bordered by Somalia so we were pleased there weren't any pirates here to meet us. Headed to meet the Admiral for the meet and greet. Have a good day.
Entry #20 (June 2, 2009): We left Baghdad early this a.m. We flew to Kuwait on a C-17 and it only took about 45 minutes. Those C-17's are special planes. There were 135 of our troops on the plane with us that were headed home. I've never seen a happier bunch. Good for them. Let's all make sure when we see one of our men and women in uniform at home, please stop and say thanks for your service. Remember our troops are the reason we are free. We stayed about an hour in Kuwait. We didn't leave the airport, but it was a treat for me since there was a group of airmen there from Abilene. I do remember the fly over before the National Championship Game was with the same Division. Cool stuff. Kuwait was even hotter than Baghdad. It is further south, and the sandstorm had cleared so the sun had a direct hit. There is even less green than in Baghdad. You can still see where we bombed the bunker shelters where Saddam kept his planes when he took over the country.
Entry #19 (June 2, 2009): On to Africa. I can't wait to see it. I've wondered what Africa is like my entire life even though I hope the malaria pills kick in. At least we are leaving the dust in Baghdad. Sitting outside the palace last night was pretty interesting watching the helicopters come back in from their days work in the country. They were flying in two's for protection. The ole buddy system still works, guys. In fact, they encourage all the troops to travel in groups. Just like we ask you guys to do. There was also machine gun fire outside the gates, so we aren't there yet even though we've made great progress. You still can't drink the water and there is still a lot of work to do before we turn the country back over, but I think the general feeling is it will work in time. We are headed to the airplane to once again put on our armor and helmet as we leave the front lines. Don't ever think war isn't the real thing, please keep the troops in your thoughts and prayers at all times. It is also important to constantly e-mail, call, write and send the troops things because their days are so long and hard. It is obvious as we leave Iraq that college football is huge to our military personnel. There are more than 70,000 people on the bases in Baghdad, both military and civilians, and they support their teams like they support each other. "God Bless America." With the time difference, it is very difficult to stay in touch with day-to-day activities in America and most of the games are at 3 a.m., but they stay positive and find a way to make it work. Now that is a lesson for all of us. I will check in from Africa. I don't know what to expect at our next stop but I am happy to be leaving the constant 100-plus degree sandstorms in Iraq. Say a prayer for freedom before you go to bed each night.
Entry #18 (June 2, 2009): We got up this a.m. about 5:00. I'm not sure why, but some of the coaches were saying it was because there was too much snoring in the room from the seven coaches. We are getting ready to fly to Kuwait in a few minutes. It is about a 45-minute flight on a C-17, which has become our favorite Air Force plane. We will then get back on the KC-135 we flew over here on for a two-hour flight to Africa. What an experience for me. The boy from Cookeville never thought he would be seeing the sunrise in Baghdad or stay at Saddam's Palace. The troops showed me a picture of a huge fish caught out of Saddam's lake. They said it once ate a duck struggling on the water. It would make Colt and Jordan jealous. It was not safe for us to go downtown where they said there are six million people. It is amazing with some of the poverty in this country and Saddam and his family lived such a lavish life inside the gates.
Entry #17 (June 1, 2009): We didn't eat at dinnertime because we had a 30-minute practice for the troops. It was a lot of fun to coach the guys. They were pumped and seemed to have fun. Hopefully we've helped give them a small break from their very difficult days. After the practice, we went back in the Field House at Camp Liberty and signed autographs and took pictures for another hour. The 1st Cavalry Band played 'Texas Fight' for us. After the session, we grabbed a sandwich and came back to the palace. So I'm sitting out on the back porch, over looking the beautiful lake in front of the palace. Saddam had some very nice places. The lake is full of fish but the water is contaminated. Lakes in Texas are better for fishing. Lots better! We will head down to Kuwait tomorrow morning, and catch a KC-135 down to Africa after a short stay in the airport. We will be back to work tomorrow afternoon. I think the flight is only a couple of hours. I think we have another game tomorrow night. We've been taking medicine for malaria for a week. Hope it works. I'm really enjoying seeing our troops and I've learned too much to report. At the same time, I will be excited to get back to America and especially Texas on Thursday night. I miss home, my family and friends, and our guys.
Entry #16 (June 1, 2009): We are just finishing another great day in Baghdad. We are tired because we got in at 3 a.m. last night, started at 6:30 a.m. and just walked in the door. The conditions are very tough. It is very hot and dusty. You feel dirty all the time, and the sand constantly blows in your nose, mouth and eyes. Your eyes start to burn, it is very hard to breathe, and you get a sore throat, but I haven't heard anyone gripe. Pretty amazing. I asked the General how they could keep that attitude, and he simply said because they wanted to be here - another great lesson for us in recruiting: take the guys who want to be at Texas. I will say our forces are fed very well. One soldier told me today that you have a choice in Iraq - you can either bench 300 pounds or weigh 300 pounds. He chose to bench 300. We met with a lot of the troops at Camp Victory and at Camp Liberty today. The extended meetings this a.m. were very informative in so many ways with the two Generals. We learned some great points about leadership, passion and family. At the end of the meeting, the General honored us with his coin. That is the highest recognition you can get from an officer. What a deal!
Entry #15 (June 1, 2009): Some people have questioned whether I should come on this trip and or why I would. I really don't think you can learn without forcing yourself in new settings and maybe even uncomfortable ones at times so you can continue to learn. Me coming here will force me to learn from new situations. The same is true with our incoming freshman class. Most of our 12 new freshmen showed up at school yesterday to start a new and exciting part of their lives. There is some anxiety for our family for me to be over here very much like the families that dropped their sons off in Austin yesterday. Sally greeted them in place of me yesterday, so please keep them in your prayers as well. Welcome new Longhorns! A few haven't shown up yet because they aren't out off high school yet. That is always tricky to start the first session of summer school.
Entry #14 (June 1, 2009): We awoke this a.m. at 6:30 and went back to work. We spent the first hour with General Odierno, who heads up all our forces in Iraq. At one time he headed up the forces at Fort Hood. It was a special visit. His son lost an arm in Iraq and is now at home doing well, and his daughter is a student at Texas Tech. He is a great leader and taught all of us a lot about leadership. The military offices are in the palace, which is very fitting. Since this a.m., we've spent all day with soldiers at Camp Victory and Camp Liberty. The day has once again been rewarding because the troops so appreciate us coming. You would be amazed at the influence from both San Antonio and Fort Hood. You would be proud of our Texans. We are just taking a short break at 5:40 p.m. before we go back to a couple more functions tonight. We are tired, but when you see the faces on the troops when you walk in, you once again realize they are working 12-hour days, and it is not about us. We are so spoiled that we can sleep when we get home.
Entry #13 (June 1, 2009): After putting some more thought into Balad, let me reflect on a few things I missed. Balad is a tough base. At one point there were 90 incoming rocket attacks per month. Now there are about seven per month. Great progress, but still very dangerous. Most all of the walls and buildings have thick and high cement walls, maybe 6-8 feet high to protect from incoming bombs, but not much protection if you get a direct hit from above. I also was so impressed with the football game between Army and Air Force. The guys were organized, had good plays, and competed like the Texas-OU game. Oh by the way, Army 0 - Air Force 21. Sorry West Point, there will be another day.
Because of a sandstorm, our flight was delayed for two-and-a-half hours. We left after 11 p.m. We were flying on a C-130 with a group of about 30 soldiers. The plane is slow, very loud and hot. You can't hear anything. You must either put ear plugs in or use your iPod. The guys know the iPod has saved me. I've been asking soldiers to tell me their favorite song so I could pull it up for them, and I'm 100 percent so far. One hit me with Frank Sinatra and New York, and I shocked him.
When you fly "down range" you must wear armor and a helmet to protect from ground fire. The equipment weighs between 40-45 pounds and is very hot. The flight to Baghdad was supposed to be about 20 minutes, but because of the sandstorm it took us well over an hour. We finally got to the hotel at around 2:15 a.m. Again, customs and communication can still be difficult. We are staying at one of Saddam's lavish palaces. It is unbelievable. You should check them out on the Net. That is the exciting and good news. The bad news is that all seven coaches slept on bunk beds in the same room. Now we've been close the entire trip, but seven tired coaches sleeping together after jet lag will test the camaraderie.
Entry #12 (May 31, 2009): After dinner tonight, we wait two more hours before we head to Baghdad. We will be in a smaller plane tonight, for a 20-minute flight. Once again, we are asked to wear the helmet and armor for the flight. The sandstorm has let up a little, so I think we can get in. Bagdad will be really interesting tomorrow. The terrain in Iraq is pure desert, with some breeze, and very thin sand that really burns your eyes. The sun is so hot and so bright the glare makes it hard to be outside without sunglasses. Seventy-five percent of this base has been out in the fight off base, and the average salary is about $25,000. We are so lucky to have great Americans who leave their homes and their families and fight in order to let us have the freedom we have. They are the true American Heroes. I wish our team could have been on this trip with us. Boy would they like their deal better. Pray for our military folks. They work eight hours a day, and are either in danger, or have a lot of free time. I met so many good Texans today, from Roy Miller's quarterback at Shoemaker, Bobby Reynolds, to Jeremy Sham, Brad's nephew. In closing, we've never been treated better. I'll check in tomorrow.
Entry #11 (May 31, 2009): We left the autograph session and went to the football field to coach the Army-Air Force game. I thought I'd seen rough game conditions, but there's nothing like the weather we played in today. It was over 100 degrees and there was a sandstorm. The field was so bad, all dirt with rocks spread throughout the field, but the guys didn't care. They were happy to play. I went to help Troy Calhoun, who is the head coach at Air Force, and Jim Grobe from Wake Forest, who was an assistant at Air Force, to coach the Falcons. When I reached the field, the Army team was named The Stallions from Ft. Hood Texas, so I obviously changed my loyalties immediately and went with the local guys. We didn't win, but both teams played with the passion they fight for our country with. After the game, everyone had a great time. While I was watching the game under these horrible conditions, with many of the soldiers holding their guns over their shoulders with the threat of incoming missiles, I realized how lucky and how spoiled we really are to have our freedom in America each day. I forgot to tell you we had to wear armor and an Army helmet on the flight so if bullets came into the plane we would be safe, and we were told that if we heard an announcement on the Base Speaker System that a missile was approaching, we should hit the ground immediately because we had 20 seconds before it would hit, and the shrapnel would fly when it hit the ground. If you lay flat, it would go over your head. If you try to outrun it to a bunker, you would be hit. Another thing I've never had to factor in coaching a football game before!
Entry #10 (May 31, 2009): Wow! What a day. We were on a great plane, named the C-17 for the flight from Incirlik Air Base to Iraq. It seems to be the pride of the Air Force. They assured us the landing would be interesting, and we weren't disappointed. We came in headfirst! Straight down. The pilots were amazing. What a landing. We got here in time to meet the safety patrol, have lunch (by the way the food was very good), then we went to visit the hospital. We met two young men who were injured in the same truck. Bullets were all around them, but a grenade hit between them. Their attitudes were so good, and they told me they were lucky the bullets didn't hurt them worse. When a member of our Military is injured they are picked up by a helicopter immediately. If an injury occurs and they get back to the hospital alive, they have a 98 percent chance to make it. When the soldiers get back to the hospital, they are taken from the helicopter thru an arch way named "Hero's Highway." As they are escorted thru, they see an American Flag across the top of the arch to assure them they are home safe. There are hero's everywhere here. The entire operation is on a joint base - 28,000 military personnel shared by the Air Force and the Army. After we left the hospital, we had a wonderful greeting at the rec center for questions and about three hours of autographs and pictures. Once again the crowd was overloaded with Longhorns and Buckeyes. They chanted at each other and we had a great time. You can tell there is great respect from these two outstanding programs.
Entry #9 (May 31, 2009): It's late, late night in Austin and I just heard the Longhorns won in 25 innings. Wow, what a game. Go Longhorns and congratulations Augie! Our next report will be from Iraq. Stay tuned.
Entry #8 (May 31, 2009): It's 6:30 a.m. In Turkey as we're eating breakfast and I just heard that the baseball team is tied 2-2 in the 18th. Go Horns! We had a great meal in Adona, Turkey, and it was very interesting. The Turkish people served a kabob that covered the entire table and looked so good, the waiters and the entire area in the open-air restaurant stood and cheered. It was fun. Again, Turkey is a beautiful country. Now on to Iraq. They guys say it will be 107-110 degrees. They say nothing is green in Iraq, and if the wind is blowing, the sand really burns your eyes. The aircraft also takes a controlled crash type landing. It will really test my stomach since I'm not a great flyer anyway. Because of the anticipation of going down range, the coaches and I feel the anticipation of a big game. We're a little nervous and are prepared. We have longer sleeve shirts, more sunscreen, heavy military boots, brim hats and tight sun glasses. One of the airmen made a brimmed hat with orange hook 'em horns on it. What a great honor. I will wear it for a couple of days, get it washed and give it back to him. Texas fans are amazing. I'll tell the guys on the team they can't imagine the impact they have worldwide. I'm also meeting fans from the Aggies, Baylor, OU and Tech. Football is really important to our military families. The coaches and I are having a great time. We are enjoying the military and really having fun being together. It is obvious these coaches really care about kids and people in general.
Entry #7 (May 30, 2009): The next part of our trip is where there is more potential danger. It is in what our military calls "The Theater," "Down Range," or "AOR" (Area of Responsibility). We will go through customs very early in the morning and then depart on our cargo plane. The soldiers have told us it's going to be between 107 and 109 degrees with heavy winds blowing sand very hard in our face. With the glare of the bright sun, it is so hot it will burn your skin very quickly. We need to prepare and protect our skin for that. I'm excited that we will be closer to "Down Range" battles because we also will be talking to soldiers that just came from the field. I see it as a very rewarding and interesting day and can learn so much from these men and women out there fighting for us. I'm really looking forward to seeing Iraq and finding out if my opinion changes about what I've seen on TV compared to the real thing. Obviously for security reasons I can't tell you what city we will go to, but I'll give you a full report on the experience after we leave. Tomorrow seems like it will be a challenge but fun. I'm worn out and headed to bed. Talk to you tomorrow.
Entry #6 (May 30, 2009): I'm sending this entry at 11:05 p.m. from Turkey. I know it's 3:05 p.m. in Austin so hopefully its a good time to catch up with everyone enjoying another beautiful day there. It is very hard to keep the time zones and days of the week straight, but it's even harder to keep up with the events in the States, especially sporting events. They have a military television station, but night TV games are on live at 3 or 4 a.m. It's tough to watch the game and go to work early the next morning, but the troops over here talk about how much they look forward to our games and don't care what time they have to stay up until (or wake up) to watch it. With that in mind, I will be pulling for our baseball team as I sleep tonight. Help pull them through.
Entry #5 (May 30, 2009): We just landed in Turkey. It's 11:26 a.m. here as compared to 3:26 a.m. back in Austin but my body is getting a little more adjusted to the time change. This is a small base as compared to Ramstein Air Base in Frankfurt, Germany where we were yesterday. That base had a about 10,000 military personnel as compared to 1,200 here in Turkey. Much like Frankfurt, it's interesting that English is spoken in Turkey. The base is about 30 minutes from the Mediterranean Sea so it's beautiful here. It probably would look great flying in, but there are no windows in the cargo plane! Our schedule will be very similar to yesterday's. We're going to go visit some of our injured troops at the hospital and spend time visiting with the folks on the base - signing autographs, taking pictures, sharing our thoughts and more importantly hearing theirs. I'll check in again later.
Entry #4 (May 30, 2009): We just got up at 4 a.m. in Germany to load the buses and head out to the cargo plane for a three-hour trip to Turkey. It was a short night but I'm excited and ready to go. The weather in Germany is nice - 70s and 80s - and the terrain looks much like Austin. It's very pretty. The feeling as we get ready to leave is a lot like a group of early morning workouts or back-to-back two-a-days. We're headed now to more dangerous territory the next couple of days. We've had a lot of conversations with Colonels and Generals about TEAM, leadership, changing momentum and loyalty. They've taught us a lot. I've learned that the guys on the front line must be as 'sharp as a spear' to keep winning. They have no schedule, they just must get the job done and win the battle. I've sent texts to our guys back in Austin telling them how most of the folks we're running into over here are either Texas or Ohio State fans. I told the guys it certainly makes me very proud of how we finished last season.
Entry #3 (May 29, 2009): After a hard-working day again today, we had a quiet staff dinner tonight at a local German place. I had a hamburger of course and no alcohol. That's just who I am. I'm getting ready for the season. We head to Turkey at 4:45 a.m. tomorrow; at least, we drop the bags then. They still must clear customs before we fly out around 6 a.m. We have a three-hour flight on the old cargo plane. Hopefully I can get a little bit of a nap on that trip now that I'm more accustomed to it. I've never been to either Germany or Turkey so I'm looking forward to it. Today was interesting and seeing another country tomorrow should be to. We will visit military personnel and patients in the hospital again all day tomorrow. The trip continues to grow with excitement. My night will once again go quickly, so I better lay down now. You learn around these folks fighting for our freedom that at war, you can't sleep in on Saturday because you are tired and sore. No weekends off and I'll have to catch up on my rest when I get back from the tour.
Entry #2 (May 29, 2009): We just got through signing autographs for about three hours. The military personnel in Germany are so appreciative that people in America would come to see them, say thanks and care. It's a very rewarding experience. It's now 5:40 p.m. In Germany (10:40 a.m. In Austin), 24 hours since we left the states and almost 30 hours since I headed to the airport in Austin. Long day! Now we have a short break and will share a German meal as a group. I'm sure I will sleep well tonight!
Entry #1 (May 29, 2009): I left Austin at 6:40 a.m. and flew to St. Louis on a commercial flight through Dallas where I landed about 10:04 a.m. and was off to Scott Air Force Base for some briefings and a tour of the base. The obvious thing I've seen in my early part of this trip is the passion, discipline, work ethic, leadership and pride of the military. We boarded to leave for Germany at 6:15 p.m. on a military cargo plane. The plane, a KC 135, is huge and doesn't have any climate control. We flew the cargo plane about nine hours to Germany, arriving at 3:10 a.m. Austin time (10:20 there). The flight was long and hard. The upper part of the plane is very hot, while the lower part around your feet (and of course your feet and head if you lay down) could get to 10 degrees or lower. Needless to say sleeping was tough. There's no time to complain or be tired, we've landed and are hitting the ground running. We're going to go clean up very quickly and head to the hospital to visit our injured troops. The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines are why we are here. It was a great early part of the first day visiting the hospital. It is so uplifting to see young people in such pain - some critical, some have lost their limbs - but all were very positive and appreciative. It is now 2:45 p.m. Germany time (and 7:43 Austin), the jet lag is already tough to deal with but the surroundings and troops keep you motivated. We're headed back to the base to answer questions with a coaches panel and then continue to take pictures and sign autographs. I'll check in later, Mack.
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