Atlanta United contingent visits Fort Bragg

Atlanta United Vice Presidents Carlos Bocanegra and Dimitrios Efstathiou and players Brad Guzan, Brooks Lennon, Miles Robinson and Caleb Wiley went on a USO-sponsored trip to visit military members at Fort Bragg on Tuesday in North Carolina.

Atlanta United was the first MLS team to take a USO trip.

They took a tour of a Black Hawk helicopter, participated in virtual shooting drills, toured a museum and ate a meal with soldiers.

“It was special for me to join and go to Fort Bragg because of my respect for our service members and what they do for our country and our freedoms,” Lennon said. “We wouldn’t be able to live our daily lives and do what we want to do without that, so it was an honor to go there and pay our respects and meet them and see their daily lives, and it a good perspective on life and how lucky I am.”

Lennon said there were several Atlanta United supporters among the personnel, as well as others who are supporters of the sport. The players brought gifts that included T-shirts and other items to hand out. The players received “challenge coins” to commemorate the visit that Lennon said “was really cool.” Challenge coins are tokens given for commemoration and to enhance morale.

Credit: Photo courtesy of USO

Credit: Photo courtesy of USO

The most common question the players received was how many miles do they run during training and games. The soldiers said they run 5 miles a few times a week, and 12 miles once a week.

“I told them we might run a lot, but there’s no way any of us soccer players can carry 70 pounds or whatever on our back and then run 5 miles, there’s no way,” Lennon said.

Lennon, 25, said he wanted to know why many chose to enlist. He said their answers ranged from wanting to work somewhere away from their hometowns to simply wanting to serve.

“Some of these kids were my age, a little bit younger than me, which was incredible to see at such a young age being able to serve your country is a really honorable thing,” he said.

Lennon said the most fun activity was getting to sit in the helicopters in the hangars and take photos and meet the pilots. Poor weather prevented the Black Hawks from flying. The group also participated in virtual (no live fire) shooting drills, which Lennon said almost was like a video game. As they would walk through the simulation, different things would pop up on the screens. Lennon said he was the best of the group. He said Robinson was the worst. They also toured a museum that included one of the U.S. flags brought back from Afghanistan after the withdrawal.

Credit: Photo courtesy of USO

Credit: Photo courtesy of USO

It wouldn’t be a tour of a base without trying MREs – which soldiers eat in the field – but Lennon said he didn’t want to try one, even the beef stew that the soldiers said is the most popular. The Atlanta United group did bring back a variety box for others to try.

An Atlanta United spokesperson said the franchise hopes to expand the USO trips, perhaps even sending players to bases in Germany or South Korea.

Credit: Photo courtesy of USO

Credit: Photo courtesy of USO

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