First stop on NFL-USO Tour excites Millen

Matt Millen, a former NFL linebacker, executive and current ESPN football analyst, is joined by ESPN NFL analyst Merril Hoge and Hall of Fame offensive lineman Anthony Munoz on an NFL-USO Tour of the Persian Gulf region. The group is traveling to meet and greet service members for several days. Millen sent an update from the tour:

I arrived at a military base late Tuesday night on the first stop of a United Service Organizations (USO) tour. I was with ESPN analyst Merril Hoge and Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive tackle Anthony Munoz, both of whom volunteered their services to reach out to our service members overseas. We couldn’t have been more impressed by what we saw and the people we met.

Our day at the camp began with a quick workout before breakfast. We met with Col. John Kubinec, commander of the 379th Expeditionary Maintenance Group, who took us on a tour of the base. We got to meet the troops stationed at the base, and saw a small sample of their daily lives and responsibilities.

The base is home to a number of B-1 Lancer bombers. We got to see how the soldiers who maintain and fly these aircraft do their jobs, and let me tell you, it’s some unbelievable stuff. Even something as seemingly simple as loading and unloading the Lancer is, in actuality, incredibly complex, and is done with a high degree of professionalism.

Nearly all of the troops with the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia are incredibly into football. As Merril, Anthony and I talked with them at lunch, the same themes kept surfacing -- they wanted to share memories of games they’d witnessed, worry about the labor situation, and simply talk about the game they love. So many soldiers are humongous college football fans as well. There were enough Alabama and Arkansas fans around to keep SEC rivalries piping hot, and an Iowa contingent looking forward to going for the Big Ten title next season.

As you’ve no doubt gathered, I love talking to people about where they’re from. The soldiers at the base were thrilled to talk about their hometown teams. There’s a lot of hometown pride among the troops. In particular, there’s a lot of Pittsburgh pride. You would not believe how many “yinzer” accents I heard. The Steelers have a pretty hefty fan base in the Persian Gulf, including Col. Kubinec himself.

I was so impressed by the dedication and professionalism of these young soldiers. They’re excited about their jobs and their spirits are so high. I’m really looking forward to the next stop on our USO tour.