CAMP TAJI, Iraq - The spirit of Super Bowl Sunday reached Iraq this year, where a brigade of Soldiers out of Fort Riley, Kan., gathered to watch the Green Bay Packers take on the Pittsburgh Steelers.

On Camp Taji, Soldiers assigned to the Enhanced Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division tuned into the game via the American Forces Network, which broadcast the game live at 3 a.m. local time.

For them, a little tradition went a long way. Soldiers gathered in small groups around the camp, all doing their best to mask the austerity of their surroundings with a little taste of football culture and a semblance of home.

"It was great, camaraderie was good," said Capt. Adam Kirschling, commander of the brigade's headquarters company. "Any time we can break away from our normal day-to-day activities and have a good time, we love it."

A native of Mequon, Wis., Kirschling was one of the more die-hard Packers fans in the room as his Soldiers gathered to watch the game, he said. Nearly as much as he enjoyed watching his team win the Super Bowl, Kirschling said he was happy knowing the game put a good cap on the unit's deployment. With weeks until the brigade is scheduled to return to Fort Riley, the Super Bowl was one of the last big events its Soldiers will spend away from home.

"It's a milestone - it would've been nice to be home for it - but to know that this is wrapping up, it was a good way to unwind before we finish strong for the rest of the deployment," said Kirschling.

Steelers fan Spc. Adrian Billadeau did not catch the game live. An aircraft structural repairer assigned to the brigade's D Company, 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, he was getting rest before a long shift the next day.

"I caught bits and pieces when I got in," said Billadeau. "Enough to know my team lost, but at least I got to see some of it."

"Being here makes you value the things you have, the things you don't have and may have taken for granted," said Billadeau.

Billadeau said he plans to make up for the things he did not have this year in next year's Super Bowl. It will not be hard to do, he said, so long as he watches it from "somewhere other than a plywood office."

Hundreds more Soldiers like Billadeau did not watch the live broadcast. While its deployment is drawing to a close, the brigade's operations are still in full-swing around the clock. For the Soldiers who were flying, maintaining, working, or on mandatory crew rest during the game, AFN is re-running the game several times.

The brigade will miss one more holiday, Valentine's Day, but is scheduled to return to Fort Riley beginning this month.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16