Soldiers of the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) spent their Wednesday as the honored guests of the Seattle Seahawks on the final day of the Seahawks pre-season training camp.
On the morning of August 16, nearly 100 Soldiers boarded charter buses on Joint Base Lewis McChord, Wa. and headed to the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, Wa. to watch the Seattle Seahawks practice.
The visit to the Seahawks practice was the first of many community engagements between the two as they have partnered for the upcoming season. In 2012, the Seahawks partnered with the Army, and rotated partnership with each military service through last year. This season, the Seahawks chose the 1st SFG (A).
At training camp the Soldiers were greeted by Seahawks staff and given wristbands granting them special access to watch the Seahawks practice. The Soldiers were staged in a roped off area usually reserved for the players' families.
"It's amazing because this isn't typical for us to get invited to something like this, so for them to reach out and have us come here and treat us so great is amazing," said Sgt. Shaimaya Dawson, a 1st SFG (A) human resource specialist.
Soldiers enjoyed food and drinks as players began filtering out onto the practice field. At the sight of the mixture of green and maroon berets, many of the Seahawks players stopped for conversation, autographs, and even selfies.
Due to the nature of the unconventional warfare and the regional alignment mission of the 1st SFG (A), many of its Green Berets spend the majority of their careers at JBLM while living in the surrounding communities, making them larger fans than typical military personnel who often move.
"I'm a huge Seahawks fan - my wife, my kids, we're all Seahawks fans," said Master Sgt. Ed Hall, who has been a member of the 1st SFG (A) and Washington resident for more than 14 years.
Halfway through the practice the Soldiers were invited to walk on to the field and stand on the sideline to watch the rest of practice.
"Being so close to the action made us feel their intensity," said Staff Sgt. Katie Whelan, a 1st SFG (A) health care specialist.
Soldiers stood directly behind the team, able to peer through the massive wall of players to catch glimpses of the action on the field.
When head coach Pete Carroll signaled practice to end, he beckoned the Soldiers to join the team in a huddle at the center of the field.
At the center of the huddle, in the mass of Soldiers and players, Carroll said, "We respect the heck out of you and love the heck out of you guys and wish we could be like you"
Carroll called team leader, Richard Sherman, to join him at the center of the huddle. Sherman also expressed his gratitude to the Soldiers.
"Thank you all for what you do and thanks for being here today," said Sherman before instructing everyone to shout "Seahawks!" at the count of three.
The Soldiers and players talked, shook hands, and took pictures with each other. Some of the team's star players diligently signed autographs until every Soldier wanting one received a signed item.
Quarterback Russell Wilson said, "It's an honor to have the men and women who serve and make a difference and allow us to play the great game of football and we couldn't do it without them."
As part of the season-long partnership, many of the Seahawks players and coaches are slated to visit the 1st SFG (A) headquarters in September. And, the Seahawks will be featuring Soldiers and veterans from the 1st SFG (A) at games throughout the season to include their Salute to Service game in November.