SAN ANTONIO (Army News Service, Jan. 5, 2013) -- The "Army Strong" message got a big boost this week as Soldier heroes, about 90 of the nation's top high school football players and their coaches, about 150 band members, a number of drill sergeants and many others converged here for 2013 U.S. Army All-American Bowl activities.

Events for the high school seniors included informal mentoring sessions with Soldier heroes, all of whom have received awards for valor; a robotics competition; visits with wounded warriors; field band clinics; a shotgun clinic; tours of nearby installations; and capping it all off, a championship game at the Alamodome between about 45 football players assigned to Team East and 45 to Team West.

The championship game, which Team East won 15-8, was televised nationally on NBC.

The All-American Bowl theme this year was "Only the Strongest Wear Our Colors," a takeoff on the "Army Strong" slogan.

"The Army All-American Bowl showcases the many options and opportunities available through Army service -- active, Reserve and Guard. It also demonstrates how the Army profession develops our nation's future leaders and our communities' strongest citizens," said Lt. Gen. Jeff Talley, chief of the Army Reserve and commander of the U.S. Army Reserve Command.

"The exceptionally talented high-school players and coaches I've seen and spoken to while in San Antonio demonstrate the qualities I see in many of our citizen Soldiers," Talley said. "They are committed to excellence, are remarkably resilient, and work in a fast-paced environment without missing a beat."

"Any opportunity we can talk about the Army and show the Army to the rest of the American people is a great thing; and what better place to do it than with some high school seniors and with a football team," said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III during a football practice session Jan. 4, at the Alamodome.

Chandler emphasized that the Army is a winning team.

"We recognize individuals and their accomplishments, but the Army is a team sport," he said. "We're a Soldier-centric organization and as a team we're invincible on the battlefield, just as (these players) will be on the sports field."

"Kids coming in the Army today are really no different than when I came in 29 years ago, except they're a lot smarter and pick up quickly on technology," said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael McCoy, commandant of the Drill Sergeant School at Fort Jackson, S.C., during today's game.

"Our job is to instill Army values in the young Soldiers and help them build up their physical and mental capabilities," he added. "It's all about serving our country to the fullest extent possible."

He said when he was a recruiter years ago, he never sugar-coated Army life.

"I told the prospects that you may be called to do the nation's bidding at any time," said McCoy, who is a two-tour Iraq veteran.

Sgt. 1st Class Shawn Miller also tells young people exactly how life in the Army is, as he experienced it -- both the good and the bad.

He gets many opportunities to speak with young people around the country because his current duties include manning a custom chopper display at big events like this one, just outside the Alamodome.

It also helps that one of the choppers on display was custom-built by Orange County Choppers, a nationally televised outfit. The olive drab chopper is American Soldier themed.

Another mentor to the kids was Command Sgt. Maj. Donna A. Brock, senior enlisted adviser to the Army surgeon general and a former drill sergeant and Iraq war veteran who served as a combat medic.

She had a lot of stories to tell them about Army life -- the challenges as well as the opportunities.

"They were genuinely interested in my experiences," Brock said, adding that the students had a lot of good questions.

"One of their questions," she said, was "'Are great leaders born or made?' I told them there are some who seem to have natural leadership abilities and other great leaders who perhaps were not born with that gift, but have become great leaders with time and experience."

She said their follow-up question was "how does one become a great leader?"

"I gave them a lot of advice on this point," she said, offering them three tips:

"Pick a good mentor, attend leadership development courses whenever they are available and observe good leaders and bad leaders and learn from each of them," she said. "I told them I can pick out the leader of a group right away by the way he or she interacts with the other group members."

This week the students received a lot of mentoring and leadership training.

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