By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (AW) Amy Kirk, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) Public Affairs
USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, At Sea (NNS) -- Four Division I football coaches visited Sailors May 27 aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) as part of Moral Entertainment and United Service Organizations (USO)-sponsored 2010 Coaches Tour.
University of Oregon Football Head Coach Chip Kelly, U.S. Military Academy Football Head Coach Rich Ellerson, Harvard Football Head Coach Tim Murphy and University of Illinois Football Head Coach Ron Zook toured the ship and greeted Sailors, taking time to sign autographs and pose for pictures.
"It took about 10 seconds for me to decide to be a part of the tour," said Murphy, who has two recent graduates heading to Afghanistan soon. "I had great respect for the men and women in uniform before, but seeing you folks in action is impressive. Few people could do what you do everyday. We owe you all a debt that will be difficult to repay."
For Ellerson, being a part of the trip was twofold. He wanted to pay his respect to the men and women defending our freedoms and get a firsthand look at different environments and working conditions so he could go back and report to his Army athletes, giving them perspective on what they may face in the future.
"I have a profound respect for every person who serves," said Ellerson. "Being able to see the Air Force and the Navy in action, I appreciate them even more. It has been a humbling experience watching these men and women in action. With everything going on and the potential for bad things to happen, no one seems stressed – everyone is on point."
Kelly commented on the crew's ability to work seamlessly together, much like a successful football team, to get the job done.
"What we do on the field is just a game, but what you are doing here is life," said Kelly. "Every few seconds, I was taken aback by the seeming ease and efficiency with which everyone did their job – to watch that coordination was amazing."
The coaches were not the only ones to notice the similarities between a successful military operation and a successful football team.
"I am very excited they are here," said Interior Communications Electrician 1st Class Priscilla Horner, who won a raffle to dine with the coaches. "They have a great perspective of what we do out here – how they lead a team and how we lead out here are pretty much the same."
In addition to signing autographs, the coaches also conducted a question and answer panel discussion in the ship's hangar bay, fielding questions about the upcoming college football season and how, like within a military organization, teamwork is the key to success.
"You just keep seeing the teamwork and the amazing attitudes," said Zook. "One of the underlying things you see is that every job out here is important, from taking care of the aircraft to preparing the food, everyone pulls together with pride and professionalism. Every smile and attitude toward the job has been impressive."
The coaches said they look forward to returning home and sharing their experience with family, friends and their football teams.
"I think it is important for everyone to know that we are able to live the life the way we do because of men and women like you," said Zook. "We can't say thank you enough."
Sponsored by Moral Entertainment, the USO and Under Armour, in conjunction with Armed Forces Entertainment, the Coaches Tours is in its third year of providing entertainment and an expression of gratitude and support for military troops serving overseas.
According to the USO Web site, the tours have put NCAA coaches in touch with more than 40,000 troops to date, and officials estimate that this year coaches will meet and interact with 15,000 to 20,000 service members through the tour.
Eisenhower is underway as part of a regularly scheduled deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility (AOR). Operations in the 5th Fleet AOR are focused on reassuring regional partners of the coalition's commitment to help set conditions for security and stability. U.S. forces maintain a naval and air presence in the region that deters destabilizing activities while safeguarding the region's vital links to the global economy.