Steenberge, a former University of Notre Dame quarterback, joined coaches Troy Calhoun (Air Force), Chris Creighton (Eastern Michigan) and Chip Kelly (San Francisco 49ers) on the tour, which was conducted by Colonel Al Hunt, USAF (Retired) and organized by Military Appreciation Partnerships (MAP) in Association with Armed Forces Entertainment.
“I feel most blessed to have been a part of this team, and to have visited bases in Georgia, Germany, Bahrain, Djibouti and Italy,” said Steenberge. “As our forces often do downrange, we mostly traveled by night in the spacious, somewhat stark C-17 aircraft, arrived early morning to accomplish a full day’s worth of work, then would head out again at ‘0 dark thirty’ for the next base. Each stop, while totally unique in atmosphere and location, presented itself as a bastion of American pride and dedication.”
The group of 15 touring members departed from Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, GA, and traveled a total of 19,126 miles, visiting Ramstein Air Base and Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, NSA (Naval Support Activity) and ISA Air Base in Bahrain, Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti and Aviano Air Force Base in Italy.
“We do this in order to communicate a positive message of awareness to our troops and other overseas personnel that the American people appreciate and support their service to our country,” explained Mike Whalen of Military Appreciation Partnerships.
Watch Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun’s video feature here.
All of the travelers were given the opportunity to observe a takeoff and/or landing from the flight deck of the C-17.
Ramstein Air Base
More than 100 people formed a line before the group’s arrival, seeking autographs, photos and conversation at the largest American military community outside the United States. Approximately 50,000 troops, dependents, and DoD support personnel reside there under the command of Brigadier General Jon “Tye” Thomas, Commander of the 86th Airlift Wing.
The group visited Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, an overseas military hospital operated by the U.S. Army, which is the largest military hospital outside the continental United States. More than 250,000 individuals have been treated there from down range and it usually the first stop for injured military members returning from the Middle East and is also the major medical center for all of Europe.
General Frank Gorenc, Commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe; Commander, U.S. Air Forces, Africa; Commander, Allied Air Command, headquartered at Ramstein (NATO) met with Kelly, Calhoun, Creighton and Steenberge before they departed for the Middle East.
ISA Air Base and NSA, Bahrain
Team MAP started the day at ISA Air Base, near a Patriot Missile base protecting Bahrain, where an NFL-style Combine, was conducted for the local troops. Each Combine included bench press reps, broad jump, high jump, pro shuttle and the 40-yard dash, with this being the first of four such events on the trip, and it did not take long to recognize the exemplary energy and leadership and enthusiasm that overflowed from the coaches who organized and conducted the events. The ISA Base combine was held on the sand and outdoor basketball court, while at NSA an artificial turf field welcomed the participants.
The coaches tested young men who came from some locations and high schools familiar to the coaches. During these fun football events, Patrick Steenberge was reunited with two individuals who had traveled with Global Football during their college football careers. Pilot Eric Dube is now based at NSA Bahrain having represented Team Stars & Stripes in Mexico 2007 in the Aztec Bowl (now the Tazón de Estrellas) having played at Dickinson College. Former John Carroll University star Lt. Dan Accorti impressed at the Camp Lemonnier Djibouti Combine, three years after he played for the Blue Streaks at the Global Ireland Football Tournament (GIFT) in 2012. Also testing his skills at NSA was former Naval Academy Quarterback Ricky Dobbs, who was quick to mention that his Navy teams had defeated Notre Dame twice while he was playing.
Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti
Djibouti is located on the Horn of Africa, around 6 miles from Somalia and 8 miles from Yemen and hosts Camp Lemonnier, the primary base of operations for U.S. Africa Command. Approximately 5,000 U.S. joint, and allied military, civilian personnel, and DoD contractors occupy the camp, where the group was privileged to spend some time with Captain Geoffrey Colpitts, the Commanding Officer. He gave a good insight into the operations and underlined the sacrifices by the troops who serve there. Their deployment is usually for a year, and they are separated from their families for that term.
Following another Combine, four teams competed in a 7-on-7 flag football tournament as Chip Kelly’s team beat Troy Calhoun’s squad in the championship game.
Aviano AFB, Italy
This NATO base in northeastern Italy, located at the foot of the Southern Carnic Alps, provided a beautiful sight with snow in full view and there were two highlight events at Aviano. The coaches and Patrick Steenberge were invited to participate in a leadership discussion hosted by Brigadeer General Barre Seguin, the Commander of the 31st Fighter Wing, the only permanently assigned USAF fighter aircraft wing in NATO’s southern wing. Participants included his senior officer commanders and senior enlisted leadership, his staff, the coaches and Patrick, as well as former Congressman Jim Marshall and former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Bill Anderson.
Afterwards, the coaches and Patrick conducted another NFL Combine with personnel from the 31st Security Forces Squadron. Finally, the MAP team met with more than a hundred military children and their parents in a youth center gym to receive photos, shirts, and autographs from the coaches. Once again the genuineness and the warm personalities of the coaches were in clear view as they reached out to the youngsters.
Chip Kelly is currently the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. Before joining the 49ers, Chip was the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles from 2013 to 2015. Prior to coaching in the NFL, he was the head coach for the Oregon Ducks from 2009 to 2012, and led them to four consecutive BCS bowl game appearances.
In 2007, Troy Calhoun embraced the mission of the Air Force Academy to accomplish what was once considered nearly impossible: building a service academy program that often earns a postseason bid while playing in one of college football’s best conferences. In seven of Calhoun’s eight years, Air Force has been to a bowl.
Chris Creighton is the head football coach at Eastern Michigan University, a position he has held since the 2014 season. Previously, Creighton served as the head coach at Ottawa University in Kansas from 1997 to 2000 and at Indiana’s Wabash College from 2001 to 2007 before moving to Drake University in Des Moines for the 2008 through 2013 seasons.
Patrick Steenberge is a former quarterback who played at the University of Notre Dame. He is currently the owner and operator of Global Football, which organizes competitive events for amateur athletes worldwide, allowing them the chance to experience the Global Classroom and play in the Global Stadium. During the past two decades, Global Football has been the largest exporter of American football, having produced games and events in 25 countries on 6 continents since 1996.