From the Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany
By JOHN A. SULSER
FOX Sports Florida Marlins Producer
Feb. 9, 2011
And now...Germany. We are here at Ramstein Air Force Base, which is the largest U.S. base overseas. We arrived in Deutschland this morning after a whirlwind day in S.W. Asia. Let me take you back over the last two days...
We flew out of Bahrain to our next stop in S.W. Asia, landed, and were promptly whisked away to our first locale. Between the quick flight and long ride to the base almost everyone in the group was either sleeping, napping or just staring into the desert, zombie-eyed.
We visited an army base and got a full tour from the soldiers there before joining them for lunch. Then the players and Mermaids had an autograph and photo session for the troops. From there we headed out to an air force base nearby.
When we arrived at our next stop, we met with an air force squadron that flies B-1 bomber missions. They drove us out on to the runway and gave us a full tour of the plane. We went into the cockpit and the pilots gave us the lowdown on the B-1's capabilities. The bombers in this group were flying missions to Afghanistan and doing precise bombings of enemy positions.
We then got to go underneath the plane and get a close up look at the bombing bays and the arsenal of weaponry loaded inside. A ladder was quickly procured and the guys got to climb up and sign one of the bombs. Everyone wrote a personal (and mostly unprintable) message to the enemy soldiers that the bomb was intended for.
As the guys were signing, word came down on radio that the plane we were under was headed to Afghanistan THAT NIGHT!!! The crew was stoked that their plane was heading out, and the Marlins could not believe that the bomb they had just signed might get dropped on enemy soldiers in a few hours.
Our next stop was an Air Force dog kennel where they house canines for various details. The facility was a large building with kennels inside and a fenced in dog obstacle course behind it.
Bomb-sniffing dogs are trained at the facility, but it was the attack dogs we wanted to see. One of the soldiers came out in a full padded suit and the trainers brought out different dogs to show off their skills. The soldier in the suit would act out different scenarios as a enemy suspect and the trainer and dog would respond accordingly. The dogs were flawless in knowing when to attack, when not to attack, and using their bites to restrain but not overly-harm the suspect. I don't envy Chris Coghlan who got to experience that firsthand last year on their troop visit...
We headed to the main center of base after that for another meet and greet with the air force soldiers stationed there. The players did some quick introductions and then the military personnel were invited up to the stage for autographs and pictures. Sean and Boris (the Marlins marketing gurus) handed out t-shirts, dog-tags and autographed cards from the Marlins and Mermaids.
After that we headed back to the B-1 runway to see one of the coolest things we've witnessed this trip. We drove out to a small overlook on the main runway and stood out in the cold desert air as a B-1 returning from Afghanistan flew past, touched down, and landed before taxiing to halt.
A few moments later, the bomber we had toured earlier in the day came up the runway in preparation for its take-off. When the plane was in position, the engines started to fire and they lit up the sky. When the thrusters were up full you could feel the pressure on your chest as well as the heat coming off a plane 1,000-plus feet away. The B-1 took off down the runway and within moments all that remained were two small lights flying off into the Arabian night.
We had dinner on base and then headed back to the airport for our redeye flight to Germany. The