RELEASE NUMBER: 140115-01
DATE POSTED: JANUARY 15, 2014
USASOC Soldiers mentor at All American Bowl
by Jerry Green
USASOC Public Affairs
SAN ANTONIO, Texas (USASOC News Service, Jan. 15, 2014) - Beneath the yellow and black ornate Army Strong banners hanging from the rafters of the Alamodome, the Nation's top high school football players were moving through a series of practice drills while nearby a formation of select marching band musicians were perfecting intricate marching patterns. Watching from the sidelines, were the 10 Soldier Mentors selected from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
The 10 Soldiers were selected from the subordinate units within the USASOC for their communication skills and ability to interact with others. The Soldiers came to mentor the students and provide insight into the many Army career fields available.
Participating in the 14th annual U.S. Army All American Bowl in San Antonio were the top 90 junior and senior football players selected from high schools in the United States. Split up in divisions of East and West teams, they represented the best of high school football athletics and
many of the players expecting to receive college scholarships.
The marching band members hope their exposure on the field would also provide scholarship opportunities.
"What I see here are the similar skills and values that we have in the Army," said Houston native, Sgt. 1st Class Matthew R. Lewis, a communications sergeant with the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Carson, Colo. A football player during his high school years, Lewis said, "These high school students are striving for excellence and their dedication to the game is evident in their practice."
Sgt. Ashley E. Rice, from the Military Information Support Operations Command, Fort Bragg, N.C. is a native of Wooster, Mass., and has a bachelor's degree in music performance plans to finish her master's degree while still in the Army. Her mentorship was especially effective when she talked to band members during a competition activities event.
The U.S. Army All American Bowl has been the premier high school football game in the country for more than a decade. Players were paired with Army Soldier Mentors (outstanding Soldiers who have earned distinctions in their command) with all activities culminating with the All American Bowl game.
One of the fun activities during the AAB was the challenge event, pitting Soldiers and students from the East and West teams testing their ability to do as many sit-ups and pushups they could in one minute.
Rice was asked to demonstrate the proper sit-up procedure under the critical eye of the Army's Drill Sergeant of the Year, Sgt.1st Class David Stover. Her diminutive size was evident among the six foot plus players, many of whom weighted over 200 pounds.
Just to be sure, Rice pumped out 10 quick sit-ups as amazed students looked on and to the thunderous approvals from those heavy weight football players.
"I am amazed at the organization of these events," said Rice. "I see so much of the Army values in these players and band members. Their team work and high energy approach to excel is very much the same as what we Soldiers do every day on duty."
Lewis was called up on the platform to demonstrate the proper push up. With his back straight, he pumped out several pushups for the competitors. Barely winded, he watched as the students tried to emulate his techniques to little success, while they, the students, received the type of encouragement that only an Army drill sergeant could deliver.
Another competition event was the popular eating contest. Joining the West team was Staff Sgt. John M. Chandler, 96th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne) and Sgt. David R. Fournier, U.S. Army Special Forces Command. Not to be outdone by one of the students, Chandler tackled the chicken wing assortment with Fournier providing encouragement. Although the West lost the competition, Chandler took on his role with the zest of a hungry Soldier returning from a long deployment.
All the hoopla and practices came down to game day, Jan. 4, 2014, in the cavernous Alamodome. As the East and West team players were introduced, the Soldier Mentors high fived them as they ran onto the field.
"I am highly honored to be here today in the mentorship role," said Staff Sgt. Jaime J. McFall, a resource manager with 10th Special Forces Group. "This is a great event and a great opportunity to be around these highly motivated students.
Many of the high school students who were at the All American Bowl will probably cross paths with each other in the future, either on the gridiron or in their future careers. It is the same for Army Soldiers and especially for the one of the 10 Soldier Mentors from USASOC.
The honor of bringing out the game day football went to Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry, a recipient of the Medal of Honor. He was joined on the sidelines with Staff Sgt. Raymond L. Haldorson, Jr., a Soldier Mentor and 75th Ranger alumnus.
"I did not know Petry was going to be here," said Haldorson. "It was great to see him again and join him on the sidelines."
Haldorson, an Illinois native, joined the Army in 2006 following graduation from Illinois State University, and a short teaching career in Bloomington, Ill.
"It was an honor to be selected as a Soldier Mentor for this event," said Lewis. "The opportunity to share my military and civilian experiences with the students was incredible. I wish this type of event was around when I joined the Army. I would have been here."
With more than 40,000 spectators looking on, the East team beat the West team following several decisive runs by the East's running backs. The East team was declared the winners of the Army's All American Bowl game. The real winners were the students who worked so hard just to be there and participate. After the game ended, while family and friends of the students cheered on, great memories of the 14th All American Bowl game were shared.