Well, our flight from Washington, D.C., was supposed to leave at 6:20 p.m. Wednesday night, but the plane had mechanical problems. We were supposed to arrive in Kuwait at 1:30 in the afternoon the next day. But they couldn’t get that resolved, so three hours later, they had us get off the plane and we were going to get another plane. We did all that and got back on that plane at 10:30 Eastern and sat on there until 12:30 a.m. when the pilots’ window to work ended. So we couldn’t go. At 1 a.m. I was stuck in D.C. with no way to get to Kuwait. That was my first real international flight, and I was batting oh-for-two.
It didn’t start off great. We went to a hotel and we were back on a plane at 1 p.m. Eastern Thursday. We sat on the plane for about an hour and 20 minutes past when we were supposed to leave and I thought, “Oh no. This can’t happen again.” But they finally got it resolved and we left and finally got to Kuwait at about 9 a.m. Friday. We had a full schedule of events Friday but we had to bump that back.
When we landed you couldn’t even see the airport, because the wind was blowing hard and the sand was kicking up. It looked like it was overcast, like we were going through a cloud, when we were actually close to landing. You couldn’t see the ground until we were about 1,000 feet off the ground. But we got in and it went smoothly.
Getting checked it, it’s a whole different culture, and it was fascinating. We finally got a chance to get showered and cleaned up, because we hadn’t been able to get our things from the day before so we were in the same clothes and everything for almost two days. But then they took us to a military base in Kuwait. We took a ride on the boats they use to patrol and defend the harbor and the Kuwaiti coastline, a boat loaded with technology and speed, and that was a neat experience.
We came back to have dinner on the base and a meet-and-greet with the soldiers there and we just got back from that (at about 9:30 p.m. Kuwait time). It was good. You see so many different people from different parts of the (United States) and they all want to talk about their homes and their teams, but they are just so excited to see somebody, especially people connected with football.
Everybody wanted to know what was going on with football, are we going to have football this season. Many of the people I saw were from Detroit, and myself having coached in Pittsburgh with (running back) Jerome Bettis there was a connection there because a lot of those guys know who Jerome is with his roots in Detroit. That was pretty special.
I met one soldier from Phoenix. And I met a couple others who let me know they had driven through Phoenix.
But it was special. When you see their eyes light up, you can see the passion they have for the NFL and they are great fans. They talked about how they get up at 2:30 in the morning (Mondays) during the season to watch these games because that’s what times the games come on. So they will get up in the middle of the night, watch the game, and then they have breakfast. That’s their routine, before their normal workday. That’s a dedicated fan.
A lot of them wanted to talk about fantasy football and draft picks and quarterbacks too. The normal questions you get. But it is amazing how connected these people are when they are half a world away. It goes to show what a great sport the NFL is and the power it has with its fans.
They get a chance to have conversations too, one on one. You talk with them about everything. Being away from home and being on a base, when there is not a lot of activity, it’s good to have conversations with someone different once in a while.
To be honest, I am pretty gassed. We have a 4:45 a.m. wake-up call because we are moving tomorrow as well. We have a full day to make up for lost time. It’s a fluid schedule. For security reasons, they don’t tell you much where you are going, and it also changes with the method of travel, because if the planned method is needed for another mission, you might be going out another way. That’s what they tell me. So right now I am a little tired, but I am still running on the adrenaline of meeting the soldiers.