Navy Visit Takes Packers Off-Shore For Super Bowl


By now, nearly all football fans have figured out where they're going to watch the Super Bowl. Maybe it's at home, on a friend's big screen TV, or at a party somewhere with loads of snacks and beverages.

But a select few Green Bay Packers will be watching the Super Bowl in a most unusual place - the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

On a trip arranged by assistant equipment manager Tom Bakken through the U.S. Navy's Morale, Welfare and Recreation department, Packer players Ingle Martin, Dave Rayner, Noah Herron, Todd Bouman and William Henderson, along with Bakken, will be watching the Super Bowl with Navy sailors aboard the USS Harry S. Truman, an aircraft carrier in the mid-Atlantic.

"I think it's going to be a once-in-a-lifetime kind of deal," Rayner said. "It should be a really good time for both the sailors and us players."

The Packers crew is going to fly out of an eastern military base on Saturday to the carrier, getting a comprehensive tour of the ship and a chance to meet the sailors in all areas. They'll also share a meal with several officers and department heads on the ship before gathering in one of the expansive hangar bays on Sunday evening for the big game, which will be shown on several big-screen TVs.

Whatever morale boost their presence brings for military personnel whose service separates them from their families for an extended time, the Packers are happy to provide it.

"It's kind of a break from the ordinary for the sailors," Bakken said. "It's a time to get a little up close and personal with these guys that they wouldn't get otherwise.

"They're going to take us through virtually every place in the ship, so everybody is going to get to see them. This gives them an opportunity to get to know them a little bit."

Bakken is known as perhaps the team's biggest military enthusiast. He helps to arrange the fly-overs done by military aircraft at the conclusion of the national anthem during home games at Lambeau Field.

Having gained an interest in the military as a kid watching war movies with his father, Bakken collects photos and models of military vehicles and takes every chance he can get to educate himself about the military.

Unlike the players, Bakken actually has been on an aircraft carrier before, having toured a docked one in Seattle when the Packers played out there back in 1996.

{sportsad300}"It's just mind-boggling how big they are," he said. "You're standing on the center of the flight deck and you don't even realize you're on a ship. It's 1,100 feet long and about 250 or 280 feet wide. It just seems like you're standing in a parking lot.

"The thing that's probably going to be one of the most interesting things is landing on the carrier and then getting shot off on a catapult to come back home again. That's a once-in-a-lifetime deal for anyone who isn't in the Navy."

Martin knows a bit about the military as well. His uncle Chris is a Navy pilot who performed a fly-over in an E2-C Hawkeye before the home game against the Patriots in November.

"All the guys I've talked to are excited about it, to go see what Navy life is like for a couple of days," said Martin, adding that he might try to get a flag football game going out on the carrier. "I'm pretty sure we'll enjoy being there more than they will having us there.

"Whatever they want us to do, I'm sure we'll all do it. We want to let them know how much we appreciate what they're doing to protect our country and preserve our rights and freedoms we have here."

A few players have other military-related commitments coming up as well. Rayner and Herron will be among a group of Packers spending a week at an Air Force base in Alaska in March to meet a group of troops coming back from Afghanistan.

"We're really thankful for what they do for us, serving overseas, being away from their families, all those things," Bakken said. "A lot of what we have today we have our armed forces personnel to thank for it. It's a small, small way to try to pay them back."

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