By David VergunFebruary 5, 2016
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Feb. 5, 2016) -- There are a lot of similarities between the Army and great sports teams like the Washington Capitals, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley said.
Soldiers and athletes place a premium on physical fitness, cherish high morale and camaraderie, and expect each individual to contribute to the team and to winning, he said.
Milley spoke pre-game to service members and their Families at a National Hockey League Washington Capitals "Salute to the Military Night," during a game against the New York Islanders, here at the Verizon Center, Feb. 4. He was also interviewed by Comcast SportsNet, as well as Caps Radio announcer John Walton during an intermission period.
"Troops who've played sports at a competitive level [prior to] coming into the service have an advantage," he said. "You learn that on any sport, whether on the ice or on the soccer field. It takes a lot of effort on the part of everyone to win."
Milley knows first-hand what it's like to have been on a sports team.
While at his alma mater, Princeton University, Milley played defenseman for the Tigers, a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division hockey team. He admitted that "while I was not quite as fast or large as some of them [Caps players], I could have kept up with a few."
The chief said he had a shot at being drafted by the National Hockey League, but wasn't, "so I ended up in the Army."
"I think you've done OK for not having been drafted," Walton shot back.
"You have an incredibly complex job with so many responsibilities leading the Army. How do you do it," Walton asked.
"There are lots of challenges [being the Army's chief of staff], but it's pretty easy to do with great leaders working for you, from generals and colonels, all the way down to the sergeants and privates," he replied. "They're the greatest Soldiers in the world. It's a real honor and humbling to be their chief of staff."
THANKS TO WOUNDED WARRIORS
Besides honoring all service members worldwide, the Caps' "Salute to the Military Night" is about honoring wounded warriors, Milley said, naming some who were in attendance at the game who were wounded in Afghanistan.
Some of the wounded warriors were missing limbs and could not play hockey in the traditional manner standing up. One of them, a Marine Corps lance corporal, ceremoniously dropped the first puck at the game. "Those kids are playing sled hockey," he said. "It's part of their rehabilitation process. I'm so proud of them, all of them. They're all heroes."
CAPS SALUTE MILITARY
Adding words of appreciation for the military was Raul Fernandez, co-owner of the Caps, the Washington Wizards National Basketball Association and the Washington Mystics Women's National Basketball Association.
Every year for 14 years, the Caps have been hosting a "Salute to the Military Night," he said. Over the course of that time, the Caps have donated some 30,000 tickets to military men and women.
Milley added his appreciation to the Caps for hosting the event. The chief said that while the Caps have a devoted fan base, it's essential that the Army has one as well. "It's important for our morale to make sure that we know America supports our veterans," he said.
The chief admitted that since coming to Washington, D.C., he's become a Caps fan, but doesn't get out to games because of his busy work schedule as chief.
And, when he does watch games on television, they're usually his "beloved Bruins." He added that his son is a big Caps fan, though.
The hundreds of military spectators and thousands of others watching that night's game who were Caps fans were in for a treat. Alex Ovechkin scored his 29th goal of the season, leading the Caps to a 3-2 victory over the Islanders.