Fort Huachuca welcomed the University of Arizona football team, the Wildcats, Aug. 7 – Sunday as they held their annual training camp here to help prepare for their upcoming season. While practices and meetings made up the majority of their schedule, players had the opportunity to interact with Soldiers and the Fort Huachuca community during their stay.
On Aug. 8, the athletes and coaching staff dined with military personnel at the Thunder Mountain Activity Centre. According to Rich Rodriguez, U of A football head coach, the meet-and-greet dinner with the military and having Maj. Gen. Robert Ashley, commanding general, U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence and Fort Huachuca, speak to the team were the highlights of the camp.
“Everything else we do is secondary to the dinner we have with [the Soldiers] -everything,” Rodriguez said.
Earlier that evening, Rodriguez met with lieutenants from Company C, 304th Military Intelligence Battalion. The Soldiers packed Fitch Auditorium at Alvarado Hall to hear him discuss his life, career, coaching strategies and the recruitment process. A portion of the meeting was town hall style, where Soldiers could ask the coach questions.
During the question-and-answer session, Rodriguez talked to the lieutenants about his leadership skills. He explained how the football program must be like a family.
Even though there are 105 players, the staff must know everybody’s name, where they are from and their individual stories. He discussed how getting to know each player personally helps him to motivate each one to be their best out on the field.
“The greatest thing that happens is when a kid calls me 10 to 15 years down the road, and he says, ‘Coach, I really appreciated the experience, I’d do it all over again in the same place with the same people.’ If he says that – I did my job,” Rodriguez said, adding that he hoped the leaders in the room felt the same way about their troops.
On Sunday, the Wildcats had one last Soldier activity planned before their departure to Tucson. They took on an obstacle course challenge at Robert Scheetz Warrior Complex with the assistance of Soldiers from the 18th Military Police Detachment; Company C, 304th MI Bn.; Marine Corps. Detachment; Select Honor Guard; and Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Garrison.
The team was broken down and competed in groups and were judged based on course completion time. The university groups were up against groups of Soldiers. The U of A upperclassmen came in with the best time at two minutes and 34 seconds, followed by the Marine Corps Detachment’s two minutes and 47 seconds. Players also viewed a demonstration at the K-9 demo obstacle course, where they learned the role of dogs in the military and training methods.
Sgt. 1st Class Craig Hannum, 18th Military Police Det., was the event’s main coordinator. He hopes the Wildcats’ experience with the Soldiers helps them with their own teamwork.
“Usually they’re about getting across the field as quickly as possible, getting through the play,” Hannum said. “[The military is] about staying together as a team, because the mission is about staying together as a team.”
During the course, each group of participating players was instructed to leave no one behind. The Wildcats could not advance to the following obstacle until the previous one was completed by each group member.
Overall, Rodriguez said by bringing U of A football players to Fort Huachuca, he wanted them to see what making a commitment and sacrifice is all about when they use those words to describe college football.
“ … [Football players] get an opportunity. The men and women here at Fort Huachuca, they’re the ones making a commitment and sacrifice, so that’s why I come here. I hope they get a sense of it,” he said.
This was the sixth consecutive year the U of A Wildcats held their pre-season camp here.