News>Training camp offers Airmen special experience
Senior Airmen Michael Wrenn, 916th Security Forces, has a ball signed by Carolina Panthers player Luke Kuechly on Aug. 10, 2012. Kuechly was a number one draft pick for the NFL this season. (USAF photo by Maj. Shannon Mann, 916ARW/PA)
Capt. Derrick Baker, 911th ARS pilot, watches the Carolina Panthers from the sidelines of Wofford College's stadium on Aug. 10, 2012. Baker was selected to for the USO/Carolina Panthers Military VIP Experience. (USAF photo by Maj. Shannon Mann, 916ARW/PA)
Airmen from the 916th Air Refueling Wing, 4th Fighter Wing and 414th Fighter Group participated in the 2012 Carolina Panthers Training Camp Military VIP Experience on Aug. 10, 2012. Airmen watched practice from the sidelines, got autographs and had dinner in the team dining room at Wofford College, S.C. (USAF photo by Maj. Shannon Mann, 916ARW/PA)
8/23/2012 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- The words 'training camp' can conjure up memories of loud drill sergeants, sweat-induced workouts and hours spent mastering a task.
But for Airmen from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, their recent attendance at training camp meant getting the VIP treatment from a few of their favorite Carolina Panthers players and coaches.
On Friday, Aug. 10, 2012, Airmen from the 4th Fighter Wing, 916th Air Refueling Wing and 414th Fighter Group were given a unique opportunity to stand on the sidelines while the Panthers practiced. They also got to meet some of the players for an autograph session and have dinner in the team's dining facility at Wofford College, S.C.
Capt. Derrick Baker, 911th Air Refueling Squadron pilot, was chosen for the opportunity because of his rigorous deployment schedule in 2011.
"I was gone for nearly the whole year," Baker said. "I'm a big Cam Newton fan."
Other deployers were also given a chance to meet the team.
Senior Airman Michael Wrenn, 916th Security Forces Squadron, spent time in Middle East in 2011 and early 2012.
"I'm a hysterical Panthers fan," said Wrenn. "My family knows the Panthers first head coach. To be here right now is phenomenal."
Wrenn wasn't just representing himself either. His squadron leadership bought him a hat and football and gave him specific instructions to ensure they were signed.
While Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was quickly ushered off the field, others stopped to sign autographs and talk to the Airmen.
One notable player was Luke Kuechly, the number one draft pick in the NFL this season.
"Instead of meeting the rookie of the year I got to meet the number one draft pick," said Tech. Sgt. Kevin Davis, 916th Operations Support Squadron. "I was honored to have the opportunity to meet the players."
The event was sponsored by the USO of North Carolina and the Carolina Panthers organization.
John Falkenbury, president of the USO of NC, explained that the Panthers started doing this program with North and South Carolina military installations three years ago.
"The Carolina Panthers are huge supporters of the USO of NC and our military," Falkenbury said. "They hold a special place in our hearts."
Falkenbury mentioned that in addition to these events, the Panthers also offer discounted tickets throughout the season and host a military appreciation game in November. This year's military appreciation game will be held on Nov. 11, 2012.