NBA Stars Turn to the Utah National

 Guard for Help with Deployment Preparation

 

Written by Shad West

Published June 6, 2007

 

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Shawn Bradley and Thurl Bailey try on new Army Combat Uniforms given to them by the Utah Army National Guard and presented by Col. Scott Olson.

Photo by Sgt. Kelly Collett

Shawn Bradley and Thurl Bailey try on new Army Combat Uniforms given to them by the Utah National Guard and presented by Col. Scot Olson.

 

DRAPER, Utah Two Utah sports celebrities received Army Combat Uniforms, boots and field caps June 5 in preparation for a two-week trip they will take to the Middle East later this month.

 

The two athletes will don their Army uniforms adorned with the Utah National Guard Joint Forces Headquarters patch on their left shoulders. Their uniforms will also sport name and Utah tapes.

 

Utah National Guard officials said the uniforms and boots had to be specially made for Utah Jazz legend Thurl Bailey and BYU alumnus Shawn Bradley.

 

Bailey and Bradley are heading to the region with Pro Sports MVP, a sports marketing firm in Colorado who with Armed Forces Entertainment specializes in events for military personnel serving overseas. They will travel overseas to hold basketball clinics and meet personnel serving in the volatile region.

 

“We reach out to the athletes and see if they would be interested in doing an event like this,” Nicole Burdett, Pro Sports MVP corporate communications manager, said. “It takes a special kind of person to take on this kind of event.”

 

Burdett said both Bailey and Bradley are perfect examples of the type of athlete her firm works with.

 

While this trip is a first for Bradley, Bailey has previous troop-support experiences. He visited troops in Kosovo, Sarajevo, Germany and Italy. He says it is a small way for him to show his support for the Armed Forces.

  

Jazz Legend Thurl Bailey signs a basketball for Staff Sgt. Robert Hill.

Photo by Sgt. Kelly Collett

Jazz Legend Thurl Bailey signs a basketball for Staff Sgt. Robert Hill.

"I have always wanted to be involved,” Bailey said. “I know how important it is for our Service members to see that support. I know the importance of the things they do for us.  I have always wondered if there was something more that I can do. With the platform that we have as professional athletes, there are opportunities that we can take advantage of to show our support.”

 

Bailey said an opportunity for him to travel to the Middle East was canceled at the last minute a few years ago, and he is grateful for a second chance. 

 

“I now have an opportunity to be directly involved with the troops in the Middle East,” Bailey said. “It’s a great honor for me, and the troops love it when we can take our talents to them.”

 

Utah native Shawn Bradley said he jumped at the opportunity to join Bailey on this trip.

 

“Thurl called me and said 'Shawn, I have an excellent opportunity for you,'” Bradley said. “I immediately said yes then went home and asked my wife. She said it was an opportunity of a lifetime that I shouldn’t pass up. However, we want it to be as safe as possible. This is an opportunity to share something that we love: basketball and our support for our troops.”

 

To ensure they knew what to expect in the region, Bailey contacted Col. Scot Olson for support. 

 

Olson arranged for the athletes to participate in two briefings.  Lt. Col. Richard Miller, who commanded the Triple Deuce during its deployment to Iraq in 2005-2006, made the first presentation, an Army 101 course which gave them an overview of the military. The briefing also included a brief history of the Army, rank structure, protocol and how to wear their uniforms.

 

The second briefing, given by Maj. Joseph Green, provided information on the region which showed Bailey and Bradley the history and political climate there, as well as the dangers military personnel face daily.

 

“I thought the briefings were a good idea because I simply wanted them to be aware and comfortable with the environment they were about to be in,” Olson said.

Thurl Bailey (near) and Sean Bradley (far) listen closely to the brief being given by Lt. Col. Richard Miller which taught them the military basics.

Photo by Sgt. Kelly Collett

Thurl Bailey, left, and Shawn Bradley ) listen closely to

the brief given on military basics by Lt. Col. Richard Miller.

 

 “After the briefings they both told me it meant a lot that we took the time to work with them,” added Olson.

 

The possibility of suicide bombings and improvised explosive devices didn’t deter the determination of the athletes to visit the troops.

 

“After sitting through two briefings I think understanding the situation our troops face, and learning about the culture over there sets me at ease,” Bailey said. "It is awesome that these guys took the time to help prepare us for this.”

 

“It means a lot to soldiers to see these celebrities bring a little bit of America to them,” Miller said. “It reminds them of home. It also shows the Soldiers they are willing to sacrifice themselves by going over.”

 

To show their appreciation to the Utah National Guard both Bailey and Bradley spent an hour with Guard members signing autographs and posing for photos.

 

“There is so much more good going on over there than the media is showing us,” Bradley said.  “I hope our trip will bring that good to light. To go over and represent the state that I grew up in and love is a real honor.”

 

Both athletes said they will wear their Utah National Guard patches with pride.

 

“It’s an honor for us wear the Utah patch when we go over there,” Bradley said.

 

Shawn Bradley (left) ducks to clear a doorway as he follows friend Thurl Bailey to Draper's sports court to sign autographs and have their picture taken.

Photo by Sgt. Kelly Collett

Shawn Bradley (left) ducks to clear a doorway as he follows friend Thurl Bailey (right) to Draper's sports court to sign autographs and have their picture taken.