May 23, 2008
Entering the second leg as part of a Coaches Middle East Tour, Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville
and the remainder of the tour moved from the dry desert to the high seas Friday as the group visited sailors aboard Navy ships in the Persian Gulf.
"We are in Bahrain today preparing to get on helicopters to fly to ships to meet sailors and spend the night on a ship, which should be very interesting," Tuberville said Friday morning.
The trip, which started Monday at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, saw the party tour the base Monday evening and receive training Tuesday before departing Tuesday afternoon aboard a KC-135 refueling tanker aircraft.
Along with Tuberville on the trip are Mark Richt of Georgia, Randy Shannon of Miami (Fla.), Jack Siedlecki of Yale and Charlie Weis of Notre Dame.
Following eight hours in the air, the KC-135 landed at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany where the coaches visited wounded soldiers at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. The three-hour visit was the half-way point of their travels as the group flew eight more hours to Southwest Asia to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.
"We're having a great trip," Tuberville said. "We're very encouraged by the enthusiasm of all the troops fighting for us.
I've had the opportunity to shake hands with probably 2,000 men and women in uniform during the last two days from a lot of different areas and units."
The group spent a day in Qatar and a day in Bahrain visiting with troops, signing autographs and holding a Q&A session.
"We spent a lot of time Thursday with troops on 2-3 days of rest and relaxation from Iraq, Somalia, and Afghanistan," Tuberville said.
Morale Entertainment is organizing the tour in association with Armed Forces Entertainment. The tour, which is sponsored by Under Armour, is a first of its kind for NCAA football and Armed Forces Entertainment.
"It's truly been a whirlwind tour," Tuberville said.
"We've been busy and on the go, but it's been an experience of a lifetime. We've met people from four-star generals to privates and seen lots of Auburn fans along the way. They're very appreciative of us being here, but we're just as much flattered of them letting us get in their way for a few hours."
One thing custom to summers in the South is the heat and humidity, but it pales in comparison to the temperatures that greeted the coaches upon their arrival in the Middle East.
"It's very hot here and will try your patience with the 120 degree heat," Tuberville said. "It doesn't faze these people, however, that are here doing a difficult job in a tough situation."
A television concept for the tour is being developed by Morale Entertainment in conjunction with Big Dog Productions. Broadcast details will be released at a later time.
The tour will conclude when it return to Andrews Air Force Base on Memorial Day afternoon.