The 2011 U.S. Army All-American Bowl is over. The players, musicians, coaches, Soldier-Heroes, and parents are headed home. The signage is coming down and the lobby looks naked. The frenzy of activity and the excitement dissipated.
The assets in the Army Strong Zone are being packed up and will head out Monday morning. The remainder of my team and I will head back to Fort Knox Tuesday tired but very proud of the success of this year’s game and activities.
It was a lot of hard work and long hours, but every event was executed nearly flawlessly. Attendance at the game set a new record. A record number of people visited the Army Strong Zone in three days. We’ll exceed our leads goals once again as well. It is a huge undertaking that takes a talented, hard working and dedicated team.
The All-American Bowl is the equivalent of a mid-size college bowl with large permanent staffs all located in one location. The U.S. Army All-American Bowl is a partnership between the Army and All-American Games with support from our national advertising agency McCann-Ericson.
My office is at Fort Knox, Kentucky. All-American Games is located in Wharton, NJ. And the McCann-
Ericson team is located in Chicago, Minneapolis and Austin. Between us there are perhaps only 6-10 people working on the game full-time. That’s less than half of the equivalent bowl game.
We get together one week a month from February-December. Yet, each January we put together an event that:
Hosts 100 centers of influence from around the country while providing them information about the Army through tours of facilities at Fort Sam Houston; panel discussions; and meeting with senior Army leaders;
Hosts 100 high school coaches for a football academy that includes a leadership panel with Army leaders and a tour of facilities at Fort Sam Houston;
Conducts a combine for 500 sophomores and juniors;
Honors 100 of America’s true heroes---the American Soldier;
Showcases and recognizes the talent of 100 senior high school football players and 125 high school musicians;
And includes nearly 20 events in addition to the game.
It is the great people on our team that make this event a success. It starts with my program manager Mike Mensch. A retired Army first sergeant, Mike was promoted to his current position in December when his boss Joe Cross was promoted and moved to another office. Mike and Joe were a great team and the transition was easily. Best of all Joe’s new position in Protocol allowed him to help lead our Joint Visitors Bureau along with LTC Cullen Richardson.
Dave Tritt was his ever steady self managing several hundred hotel room reservations and transportation requirements.
LTC Lance Patterson, MAJ Cary Bathrick, and Jose Hocoq headed our operations team and allowed Mike and I to focus on critical activities without being lost down in the weeds.
Tony Shutters kept us communicating throughout the week just as if we were back at Fort Knox. That’s a huge undertaking and Tony and his team made sure we didn’t have one commo issue.
Crystal Guerrero, a Public Affairs Fellow headed our public relations team. She was thrown into the fire and tested. But she held her own in her rookie season.
Dottie Bennett led the effort to support our centers of influence and provided advice and mentoring to Crystal and the PR team.
LTC Dave Clore not only lead the effort in the Army Strong Zone but also helped our COI guests have a great Army experience while either tandem jumping with the Golden Knights or shooting with our Olympic champion Army Marksmanship Unit.
Paul Deahl, Christina Smith, Lara Stott, Steve Johnson from McCann along with Nate Seamon and Joe Falconi from All-American Games were critical to our success.
There were so many other outstanding people who contributed to the success of the event, including my contractor team of Glenn Hershfeld, Rich Fairman, Walt Quinn, Don Applegarth, Doug Schmidt, Ted Ingram, Mike Spence, Rob Thomas, Hamilton Lopez and Darrell Olson.
To all who made it possible, whose names are too many to mention…thank you for a job well done.
When you are busy executing the event it is hard to capture a lot of memorable moments. But this year I will remember:
The reception SSG Sal Giunta, our nation’s first living Medal of Honor recipient since Vietnam received at the Awards Dinner and during the pre-game ceremonies;
SSG Sal Giunta. He is one of the most humble people I have ever met. I remember standing on the sidelines and watching his reaction to the reception he received from the crowd. The smile and look on his face said, “I can’t believe this is for me.”
The player who carried his Soldier-Hero buddy on his shoulder from mid-field to the end zone during pre-game introductions. The reaction of players and heroes when they meet at mid-field is always humorous and touching. The bond between them lasts long after the game.
Four Medal of Honor recipients standing on the stage at the Awards Dinner. Along with SSG Giunta there was Major General retired Patrick Brady; Mr. Clarence Sasser and Mr. Robert O’Malley. With less than a 100 living recipients having four on the stage is a real honor.
Finally, I was honored and humble to receive the Department of the Army Meritorious Civilian Service Award for my work on the event marketing program since its inception 10 years ago. It is more a reflection of what my teams than what I have done.
It was a tremendous honor to have it presented by LTG Benjamin Freakley, the commanding general of the Army Accessions Command who I have had the pleasure of working for the past four years. And to have the Sergeant Major of the Army Ken Preston present was more than you could ask.
I am deeply grateful to LTG Freakley, SMA Preston for their support during through the years and to my bosses John Myers and COL Derik Crotts for recommending me for this award.
It has been another great All-American Bowl. After a few days off, the team and I will start planning for AAB 2012 along with executing the 2011 motorsports season and our upcoming partnership with Major League Baseball.