Coaches Tour 2009 takes shape at McConnell

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap
  • 931st Air Refueling Group Public Affairs
The game plan to bring some of the biggest names in college sports to troops overseas is in full motion at McConnell Air Force Base.

Active and Reserve Airmen here are preparing for the upcoming Coaches Tour 2009, a second annual morale-boosting mission featuring head coaching icons of NCAA football.

The coaches -- Mack Brown of Texas, Troy Calhoun of Air Force, Jim Grobe of Wake Forest, Rick Neuheisel of UCLA, Houston Nutt of Mississippi, and Jim Tressel of Ohio State -- will be led by Coach Emeritus Tommy Tuberville, a tour veteran who represented Auburn University during the inaugural Coaches Tour 2008.

For the second year in a row, tour planners are counting on a KC-135 Stratotanker from McConnell AFB for most of their transportation needs.

Maj. Lucas Jobe, a KC-135 pilot assigned to the 22nd Operations Support Squadron here, is the tour's mission commander for the Air Force. The 2009 tour includes two more coaches than last year and organizers are looking to build on the many successes of the 2008 trip. It all adds up to more planning, more work, and a whole lot of cargo.

More than 20,000 pounds of Coaches Tour cargo alone is expected to be carried by a KC-135. Under Armour, the main sponsor of the tour, donated 1,900 T-shirts to give out to servicemembers last year. At least that many shirts are already sitting on the floor of Tech. Sgt. Vanessa Chandler's warehouse. She is in charge of cargo movements for the 22nd Logistics Readiness Squadron here.

"I'm expecting 10 more pallets (of tour gear)," Sergeant Chandler said.

Where all that stuff is going on the tanker is in the hands of Master Sgt. Paul Wallace, the standards and evaluation superintendent for the 22nd Operations Group here. But not all the tour gear sent to McConnell AFB -- to include hats and pictures -- is overseas bound. Coaches Calhoun, Grobe and Tressel are scheduled to hand some of it out, sign autographs and meet servicemembers at McConnell AFB at the start of the tour.

Then they will meet up with the rest of the coaches at Scott AFB, Ill., before heading to Germany, Turkey and the Southwest Asia. The coaches are expected to personally interact with an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 servicemembers during the tour.

Coach Tressel, whose father served in the Navy during World War II, spoke during a recent press conference about the "tremendous honor" of participating in Coaches Tour 2009. He and the other coaches are "more than excited" to show their appreciation for the troops and help break up the monotony of deployment life.

"They'll see from us that we really believe they are the ones that people should take note of," Coach Tressel said. "They're the ones doing the tough duty."

Sprint, also a Coaches Tour sponsor, is sending about a dozen cell phones on the tour to help the coaches bring a little bit of home to the troops. The phones will be passed around during visits for calls home free of charge.

Some troops will even get to play flag football for the coaches, a popular event in 2008 scheduled again this year. Other trip highlights include a college football symposium between troops and coaches and a coaching/player combine.

"This is about as an exciting event ... as I've had a chance to take part in," Coach Tressel said. "I'm sure it's going be an extraordinary experience."

The Coaches Tour is organized by Morale Entertainment, LLC., in association with Armed Force Entertainment, the official Department of Defense agency for providing entertainment to U.S. military personnel overseas.

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