CAMP KOREAN VILLAGE, Iraq -- National Football League stars Alge Crumpler, Shelton Quarles, Will Shields, and Benjamin Watson dropped in to pay a visit to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) Marines and Sailors at Camp Korean Village, Iraq on March 8, 2007.
The football stars came as part of a tour of many U.S. bases in Iraq and was sponsored by the United Service Organization (USO).
While at Camp Korean Village, the players got a chance to ride to the dining facility in a Marine Light Armored Vehicle. The players also signed footballs, pictures, hats, and t-shirts and posed for pictures at the Korean Village Morale, Welfare and Recreation center here.
This is the first trip to Iraq for Tampa Bay Buccaneers player Shelton Quarles. The trip included some surprises for Quarles, not the least of which was the mild weather this time of year in Al Anbar Province.
“I thought it was going to be really warm but they said we’re about a month away from it being warm,” Quarles said.
“I didn’t know that the Iraqis and the Marines eat together, so that was interesting to see,” said Quarles “and how built up our military is on certain bases. It was amazing to see how organized they are and how well they run.”
Like Quarles, this is the first trip to Iraq for Kansas City Chiefs player Will Shields. Iraq is a unique experience for someone with little or no military exposure, according to Shields.
“It’s really unique, and I think right now, for us to be over here, it’s sort of mind boggling,” Shields said. “For me, it’s really cool to come over and see what kind of reception we get.”
The players see parallels between the military and the rigors of professional football, according to Quarles. The preparation, practice, and split second decisions players make on the gridiron on game days are similar to the experience troops see in combat, said Quarles.
“By being prepared it allows you to go out and do your job. A lot of the things that you guys do are split second decisions and it’s the same thing with us,” said Quarles. “It all comes from being prepared. The biggest difference is our game is usually once a week, and you guys have game day everyday.”
The most rewarding aspect of visiting with the troops in Iraq was the chance to give the Marines, sailors, soldiers, and airmen a break from the day-to-day operations, according to Shields.
The trip also gave the players a chance to see and hear for themselves what servicemembers experience every day, Shields said.
“It’s really worth coming over here to see. We get a chance to ask firsthand. We get an insight and a different perspective from what we see on T.V.,” said Shields.
The trip had an impact on the players and gave them a clearer perspective of the work and mission of troops in Iraq, and the memories will last, according to Quarles.
“Just having a better understanding of where we are and having a better understanding of what our military does on a day in and day out basis and understanding what our military goes through to provide our freedom,” said Quarles. “This is not one of the greatest places to be in the world, but you guys sacrifice and put up with it daily, so I definitely will remember that.”