Aggie Lineman and Utah Guardsman

Succeeds on Gridiron and Battlefield

 

By Ashley Schiller

Utah State University Athletic Media Relations

 

Published November 4, 2008

 

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Aggie fans at Romney Stadium give Sgt. Michael Green a standing ovation as he receives the Meritorious Service Medal Nov. 1.

Photo by Lt. Col. Hank McIntire

Aggie fans at Romney Stadium give Sgt. Michael Green a standing ovation as he receives the Meritorious Service Medal Nov. 1.

Sergeant Michael Green, of West Jordan, a member of 19th Special Forces Group, Utah National Guard, is also an offensive lineman on the Utah State University football team.

Green was recognized at halftime of the Utah State-Hawaii game in Logan Nov. 1 as part of the school's Military Appreciation Day. The Soldier-Citizen-Athlete received the Army's Meritorious Service Medal in front of thousands of USU fans for exceptional service during his deployment to Afghanistan in 2003-2004.

The award citation, which was read by Romney Stadium announcer Rob Flygare, states: "For outstanding meritorious service while assigned to First Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan, serving as Forward Operating Base 191 intelligence noncommissioned officer. Corporal Green’s experience, technical and tactical proficiency greatly contributed to the success of Operation Enduring Freedom. Through his leadership the battalion's intelligence section shaped and dominated the battle space. Corporal Green’s actions reflect great credit upon himself, the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan and the U.S. Army."

Sgt. Michael Green, left, meets his military chain of command and his family at midfield for a halftime ceremony on Military Appreciation Day.

Photo by Lt. Col. Hank McIntire

Sgt. Michael Green, left, meets his military chain of command and his family at midfield for a halftime ceremony on Military Appreciation Day.

LOGAN, Utah - Obeying orders. Making split-second decisions. Perseverance. A physically demanding camp. Are we talking about football or serving in the military? Both, actually. According to senior Mike Green, the two have many similarities.

And he would know. The 6' 4", 300-pound offensive tackle served for nine months in Afghanistan prior to coming to Utah State to pursue a master's in political science.

He described several other parallels.

"Communication is huge in the military. You've got to communicate with other units as you coordinate efforts, just like you have to communicate here as you coordinate on the offensive line," Green said.

Both create a feeling of camaraderie among the men and require precise planning and intensity.

"You should play every play like it's life or death, which is the same as in the military," Green said.

Sgt. Michael Green, left, faces Maj. Gen. Brian Tarbet, center, and other senior Utah Guard leaders flanked by his family during the ceremony.

Photo by Lt. Col. Hank McIntire

Sgt. Michael Green, left, faces Maj. Gen. Brian Tarbet, center, and other senior Utah Guard leaders flanked by his family during the ceremony.

Although he faced some life-threatening situations in Afghanistan, like his second day in the country when a suicide bomber attacked the base, Green was mostly away from the direct combat. He served as an analyst, receiving and processing reports from intelligence collectors on the ground and in the sky.

"I would read the reports and try to figure out what each one meant and what was going on," he said. "I'd plot them on a map or on a computer and then look for patterns, similarities or dissimilarities. It was taking all the pieces of the puzzle and putting them together. We had to find where the intelligence gaps were and then focus efforts to try to find out that information."

Many military personnel become desensitized to the danger surrounding them, Green said. He compared the experience of leaving the base to driving on the freeway.

"The freeway is very fast paced, with a lot of moving things," he said.

Sgt. Michael Green stands at attention as the award citation is read by Rob Flygare, Romney Stadium public-address announcer.

Photo by Lt. Col. Hank McIntire

Sgt. Michael Green stands at attention as the award citation is

read by Rob Flygare, Romney Stadium public-address announcer.

"It's very dangerous, but you have control with your steering wheel so you feel like you mitigate the risk. It's the same thing as going outside of the wire. You have controls with your helicopters, other units, and you have your gun with you. You're focused on the mission at hand, so you ignore some of the dangers.

"But there are times when you'll feel it, just like when you see a car accident and you hear on the news that someone died. Sometimes it will be closer to you; you'll be in the car accident and the person next to you will die. That's kind of how I correlate it," Green said.

His time in Afghanistan made Green more grateful for simple things such as paved roads, flushing toilets and comfortable beds. His mother sent him baby wipes to use as toilet paper.

"I also got a real good appreciation for white bread and soft Wonder Bread," he said.

Despite the sacrifices, "serving in the military was worth it, just like playing football is worth it," he said.

And football is worth it whether he plays or not. Although Green has not yet played in a USU game, he fills an important role on the team as a scout player. He prepares the defense for the games by studying and then running the opposing team's plays.

Maj. Gen. Brian Trabet, left, pins the Meritorious Service Medal on Sgt. Michael Green Nov. 1.

Photo by Lt. Col. Hank McIntire

Maj. Gen. Brian Trabet, left, pins the Meritorious

Service Medal on Sgt. Michael Green Nov. 1.

He has dressed for several games over the past few years, thus fulfilling his childhood dream of running through the tunnel onto the field. Last fall's season-opener against UNLV especially made an impact on him.

"It was indescribable. The game brought a pretty big crowd. When you practice in the stadium, you don't realize how big it is. But when you go out in a game and you see all the people out there, you're like 'wow.' It's a whole different experience," he said.

Despite if he gets the opportunity to run through the tunnel again this season, Green feels he has had a fulfilling experience.

"I love the game," he said. "It's pretty cool to come out every day and put on the helmet and play when I'm almost 25 years old. It gives me something to do so I don't get in trouble."

He also appreciates the "instant friendships" he was able to develop upon coming to a new school where he knew hardly anyone.

Sgt. Michael Green, left, is congratulated by his father, Chief Warrant Officer Kelvin Green, also a member of the Utah National Guard.

Photo by Lt. Col. Hank McIntire

Sgt. Michael Green, left, is congratulated by his father, Chief Warrant Officer Kelvin Green, also a member of the Utah National Guard.

In addition to the friendships he's made, Green has also helped the Aggies with his leadership, something that hasn't gone unnoticed by USU head coach Brent Guy.

"It's a unique situation to have a player who has served his country. Mike brings a different maturity that you normally don't have and with that comes added leadership," Guy said. "It is a different experience for some of our younger players to be playing with a military veteran, especially with the theatre of serving in Afghanistan."

Green is now nearly finished with his master's degree. His thesis focuses on government regulation, specifically the Federal Aviation Administration. A pilot himself, he's always had a passion for aviation.

Green's next stop will be law school. He is applying to a variety of schools all over the country, but would ideally like to stay in Utah. He would also like to one day run for public office.

 

Michael Green leaves the field raising his helmet in salute to Aggie fans for their support.

Photo by Lt. Col. Hank McIntire

Michael Green leaves the field raising his

helmet in salute to Aggie fans for their support.