Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
My vacation experiences are going to be limited this month. But I actually feel like I'm making the trip with Texas coach Mack Brown on his visit to Europe and the Middle East with a group of football coaches.
Brown has provided detailed daily briefings on MackBrown-TexasFootball.com that makes you feel like you are riding in the military planes and the jeeps right along with him, Jim Tressel, Rick Neuheisel and the others.
Here's an account from when he first arrived in a dangerous war sector:
The next part of our trip is where there is more potential danger. It is in what our military calls "The Theater," "Down Range," or "AOR" (Area of Responsibility). We will go through customs very early in the morning and then depart on our cargo plane. The soldiers have told us it's going to be between 107 and 109 degrees with heavy winds blowing sand very hard in our face. With the glare of the bright sun, it is so hot it will burn your skin very quickly. We need to prepare and protect our skin for that.
I'm excited that we will be closer to "Down Range" battles because we also will be talking to soldiers that just came from the field. I see it as a very rewarding and interesting day and can learn so much from these men and women out there fighting for us. I'm really looking forward to seeing Iraq and finding out if my opinion changes about what I've seen on TV compared to the real thing. Obviously for security reasons I can't tell you what city we will go to, but I'll give you a full report on the experience after we leave. Tomorrow seems like it will be a challenge but fun.
Or his description of Iraq once he arrived there:
Once again, we are asked to wear the helmet and armor for the flight. The sandstorm has let up a little, so I think we can get in. Baghdad will be really interesting tomorrow. The terrain in Iraq is pure desert, with some breeze, and very thin sand that really burns your eyes. The sun is so hot and so bright the glare makes it hard to be outside without sunglasses. Seventy-five percent of this base has been out in the fight off base, and the average salary is about $25,000. We are so lucky to have great Americans who leave their homes and their families and fight in order to let us have the freedom we have. They are the true American Heroes. I wish our team could have been on this trip with us. Boy would they like their deal better. Pray for our military folks.
Or a lesson he learned from a military leader who motivates his troops despite the tough surroundings.
The conditions are very tough. It is very hot and dusty. You feel dirty all the time, and the sand constantly blows in your nose, mouth and eyes. Your eyes start to burn, it is very hard to breathe, and you get a sore throat, but I haven't heard anyone gripe. Pretty amazing. I asked the General how they could keep that attitude, and he simply said because they wanted to be here -- another great lesson for us in recruiting: take the guys who want to be at Texas. We met with a lot of the troops at Camp Victory and at Camp Liberty today. The extended meetings this a.m. were very informative in so many ways with the two Generals. We learned some great points about leadership, passion and family.
I'll be looking forward to talking with Brown as soon as he arrives back in Austin to talk about his trip.
And if anyone wonders how important the visit that Brown and the other coaches are making, they should read this blog item that Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel reported after conversing with a friend of his who is currently in Iraq.
The coaches didn't have to be here in Iraq today, they could have been on a beach or on a golf course. But they all appreciate the sacrifices and hard work our soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen do on a daily basis.
The work here is hard, the hours long, the days off non-existent. But it is all in the name of freedom, the freedom of America and the freedom of others.