On Friday, August 7, Ducks right wings George Parros
and Bobby Ryan
visited Fort Irwin, the U.S. Army’s largest National Training Center, located just outside of Barstow. The players made the two and a half hour trek to visit with soldiers on base, which serves as a final-preparation stop prior to deployment. The visit was coordinated through Fort Irwin’s Morale, Welcare and Recreation Department.
Upon arrival, Parros and Ryan toured the “Box”- a desert training area created to resemble Iraqi villages. They witnessed a brief combat simulation, complete with explosives, Hollywood special effects and acting townspeople within the villages. On the tour of the “Box,” Parros and Ryan met several high-ranking officials on base, including a personal greeting by Brigadier General Abrams, the Commanding General of Fort Irwin.
“It means a lot to me to be here,” Ryan said. “Both George and I are American and we certainly value what these guys do and don’t take it for granted. We get to play a sport for a living, so for us to come out and communicate with these guys and wish them well before they head out, or just to mingle and sit back and talk with them is a rare event. It’s pretty impressive.”
Added Parros, “I think a lot of people would be surprised to find out what they do out here in preparation for sending those boys overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s pretty incredible. A lot of preparation goes into it, a lot of live-action role-playing. It’s pretty cool to see our boys are well-prepared.”
Parros has a cousin in the army stationed in Kansas and said, “He’s always in my mind when I come to things like this. My future father-in-law is a Vietnam veteran, so it definitely hits close to home.”
After the tour, the players met with nearly 150 soldiers and their families at Shockwave, a sports bar located on base. Parros and Ryan signed autographs, posed for pictures and conversed with the group, helping to boost morale. Following the autograph session, they accepted gifts from Col. Paul J. Laughlin, including a plaque and an army duffle bag complete with canteens and t-shirts. George and Bobby then presented a signed jersey to Fort Irwin, which will hang at the 21st Lane bowling alley.
“This is huge, because the closest town to our installation is about 33 miles away, so we call ourselves the longest cul-de-sac in America.” said Laughlin, a Pittsburgh native and devoted Penguins fan who calls the Ducks his favorite team on the West Coast. “To have two professional athletes like these two Ducks come out here is rewarding to the soldiers because we don’t get to see that too often. We know the dedication and derive they go through to make themselves successful and to make the Ducks organization successful. We also can have that bond in that we have that same drive and dedication. There is always a bond between team sports and what we do because together you can be successful.”