By David Poe, Fort Bliss Garrison Public Affairs:
(El Paso, Texas. Jan. 4, 2018)
Each year that Hyundai Sun Bowl teams visit Fort Bliss, one thing always rings true amid the hands-on look at Army life – Soldiers and football players learn they may be cut from the same cloth.
That spirit was alive when Team Bliss welcomed North Carolina State University and Arizona State University, the 2017 Hyundai Sun Bowl teams, to Fort Bliss Dec. 27, 2017. The day of immersive Army experiences and fun was also intended to encourage morale for troops and families.
The teams started their afternoon at one of many trainers and displays that were online thanks to work from Fort Bliss, the 1st AD, and 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command, among others.
Team Bliss opened the marksmanship center on West Fort Bliss for the almost 200 players, staff members and guests. Instructor-Soldiers demonstrated basic firing fundamentals for players before running them through the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000 system. EST 2000 helps Soldiers polish their marksmanship skills in a digitally-interactive environment, which maximizes potential training opportunities and limits potential environmental impact involved with real world and “live fire” training.
Also at the marksmanship center, players were able to suit up in body armor with help from troops on hand who have worn it in training and real-world environments.
On East Fort Bliss it was all about the hardware as players and representatives got the chance to get up close and personal with hands-on simulators and displays that included an M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle and a Patriot Missile Defense System.
Leaders from the Fort Bliss garrison and 1st AD and Soldier-operators from across the base were on hand at both locations to greet the teams and familiarize the players with some facets of Army life.
After the mission-focused fun, both teams took it to the Centennial Club for dinner and entertainment as guests of the Army.
First played in 1935 as an El Paso high school football all-star game, the following year, regional college teams were invited and the modern Sun Bowl was born. Today the Sun Bowl Association organizes one of the longest-running active bowl games in major college football.
Sgt. Cornelius Mitchell, a 6th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment Soldier who helped instruct at the EST 2000, played football at Bowling Green University in Ohio, yet he said it wasn’t his own football pedigree that made it easy for him and his fellow troops to get along with the visiting college football players.
“I know how it is as a college football player,” he said, “and the details between being a Soldier and a college football player are the same. The brotherhood, the sacrifice, the summer workouts, everything they do – we do.”
Ryan Jenkins, a senior Arizona State wide receiver, said he enjoyed the chance to meet with troops and said he was impressed with noncommissioned officers such as Mitchell.
“He seems like a cool brother,” said Jenkins as he listened to Mitchell speak about life as a Soldier. “I can see (the Army) is a brotherhood. He needs to hang out with his dudes ‘off the field’ in order to trust them ‘on the field’ and everyone can be on the same page.”
Although he’s long traded touchdowns for tactical touchdowns, Mitchell concurred and expanded on it.
“If you’re running the ball in sprints or running PT, when one man falls, the next one picks him up,” Mitchell said. “You’re as strong as your weakest link.”