RICHMOND, Va. --
For the fourth year, the Washington Redskins and a private sponsor hosted a National Football League boot camp for service members as part of their Salute to Service military appreciation event.
Members from all branches of service were invited to participate in the camp, held at Bon Secours Washington Redskins’ Training Center in Richmond, Virginia, Aug. 2.
“The value of this whole thing is giving back to service members so that they can share these moments with their families, with their peers, and to those folks [who] are out there doing the tough jobs,” said Ronney Wright, Military Affairs representative for USAA. “We just want to give them a moment in time when they’re watching television and they’re like, ‘You know what, I did that.’”
The 50 training camp participants were comprised of service members stationed on Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Fleet Readiness Center Mid-Atlantic Oceana and Naval Air Station Oceana. An additional 50 service members were invited to cheer the teams on while they completed drills.
“I think it’s a great event that showed their support for the military,” said U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Marvin Whitley, culinary specialist. “It shows they care and they really want to bring us all together. At the end of the day, that’s all it’s about.”
Participants competed in five skills events, including team ball catching, the gauntlet, 40-yard dash, L-drill and the vertical leap. Events were scored by a staff member, who also encouraged teams to push through challenging events.
“I thought it was pretty cool to run a condensed combine,” said U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Michael Seyl, 400th Division engine mechanic.
The Marine was also excited to be in the Redskins facility and among the players.
“It was really great to practice where they practice and see them,” he said. “I thought the drills were really cool, agility based and really different than a lot of the workouts we do. It was cool to see what they do to practice for their games.”
Despite the challenging drills, the event was definitely worth experiencing, according to U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Sa’nyah Williams, 733rd Logistics Readiness Squadron aircraft parts store apprentice.
“I liked it all, but the gauntlet definitely had me winded,” Williams said. “I give credit to all the football players. I couldn’t do this all the time.”
Williams said she would recommend the camp to others because it would give them a chance to go out and have fun with other people.
After the drills, participants retreated to a tent where they ate breakfast and the sponsors gave away autographed Redskin’s merchandise. They also recognized the winning team, providing them with two tickets to the Redskins NFL Salute to Service game Nov. 12 against the Minnesota Vikings.
According to the captain of the winning team, U.S. Army 1st Lt. Katharine Armstrong, she now not only appreciates the work NFL players do, but she could see the Army using similar concepts in their fitness programs.
“I definitely have a new appreciation for the NFL now, after going through that just one time,” the 7th Transportation Brigade executive officer and operations officer said. “I went to the Army’s Master Fitness Course a couple weeks ago, and in that course we did a couple of different training exercises that were very similar to what they just put us through. It’s cool to see how the Army is trying to move toward building tactical athletes.”
The boot camp wasn’t the only experience participants received. The service members also had VIP access to watch the Washington Redskin’s training camp and were able to get autographs from players.
As the day’s activities came to a close, it was obvious both sides felt it was a success.
“Seeing the smiles is the favorite part for me,” Wright said at the end of the day.
Even more importantly, the service members, especially the winning team’s captain, were grateful for the experience, as Armstrong reiterated, “I think everyone here today really appreciates it and really appreciates that this was put together for service members.”