Vernon Davis never rests.
Not in the season, nor in the offseason does the 49ers Pro Bowl tight end take a minute to relax.
Since the 49ers season wrapped, he’s been to South Florida to start for the NFC in the NFL’s All-Star game, spent a week in New York City for fashion week as an intern for a designer, and spent a weekend with the US Curling team as their Honorary Captain at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
At the moment, Davis has been a part of the NFL’s USO All-Star Tour of the Middle East. Davis has been updating fans of his activities overseas via his Twitter account. He was also gracious enough to send us a couple of his personal pictures from his trip.
Davis is joined on the tour by fellow NFL stars, Cleveland Browns tackle Joe Thomas, Houston Texans defensive end Mario Williams and Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten. The tour began on Tuesday, March 2nd and ends Tuesday, March 9th. Below are some of the photos snapped by USO Photographer Dave Gatley along with trip udates, followed by Davis’ personal pictures.
(Below is an overview of daily activities from this year’s NFL USO All Stars Tour by David Krichavsky)
After a long day of travel, we arrived in Doha, Qatar and cleared customs. Our traveling party includes four of the top players in the NFL – Vernon Davis, Joe Thomas, Mario Williams, and Jason Witten — as well as a USO tour manager, USO photographer, and NFL representative.
We met our military escorts at the airport and were transferred to Al Udeid Air Force Base, approximately 40 minutes outside Doha. Al Udeid is home to nearly 11,000 coalition troops — mainly US Air Force — and from this base our troops fly combat as well as supply and refueling missions over both Iraq and Afghanistan.
It was after 8 p.m. local time by the time we arrived on base. The Commanding Officer, General Wilson, hosted a reception for the players and the senior officers on base. During this reception, the players had the chance to eat some food and relax after the long flight from the States. They also had their first opportunity to speak with the troops, ask questions about our mission, talk football and boost morale.
Many more of these opportunities would follow.
Day 2, March 3rd
On Day 2 of the NFL USO tour, our group tried to cover every inch of Al Udeid AB and meet as many of the 11,000 troops on base as possible.
We began the day with an 8 a.m. breakfast that was structured as a “football roundtable Q&A” in which the players sat at a table at the front of the room and the troops in the DFAC (dining facility) had the opportunity to ask the players questions. As a representative of “America’s Team,” Jason Witten seemed to have the most questions directed his way, although there was interest in a wide range of football (and non-football) topics.
After breakfast, the players toured the flight line, seeing all the different planes and jets that operate out of Al Udeid AB and visiting with the men and women who fly and work on the planes. The B1 bomber was a particular hit with the players due to its precision bombing capabilities. The players not only provided autographs to all the B1 pilots at this stop, but they also were able to sign a few of the bombs heading on the B1s into the war zone. “From Cleveland, with love,” wrote Joe Thomas affectionately.
Another highlight was touring the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC). This command-and-control center coordinates all air assets over both Iraq and Afghanistan. In the CAOC building, there are giant screens showing all planes currently in flight above both war theaters. The screens also show everywhere in Iraq and Afghanistan where we have Troops In Combat (TIC). And the most amazing part of all is that we generally have renaissance planes over these TIC areas that transmit live pictures to the CAOC so that those at the CAOC can call in additional air support if necessary.
The players spent 30-45 minutes in CAOC, soaking everything in and signing autographs for all the airmen and women working there.
One other highlight of our tour of Al Udeid was our visit to the K-9 unit. Al Udeid has a dog unit specially trained to sniff out explosives. The players had the opportunity to watch the dogs go through a number of exercises designed to test and refine their training.
After a brief rest and dinner, our group had a large meet-and-greet in the evening. This appearance attracted well over 300 troops from across the base.
Day 4, March 5th
We spent Day 4 of the NFL-USO tour at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, which is the main hub for Operation Enduring Freedom, our military’s mission in Afghanistan. Yesterday, our group arrived at Bagram from Qatar via a C-130 military cargo plan.
Our day began early, and after breakfast we moved to the flight line where we visited the pilots who fly Apache attack helicopters. Next we moved on to the F-15 and F-16 fighters, where we saw several jets take-off and land. One of the most stunning aspects of Bagram is that the base is set in a valley surrounded by 360 degrees of snow capped mountains. To watch these planes take-off and land with the mountains in the background is quite a majestic sight.
The next stop for our group was sure to be one of the most significant and meaningful stops of the entire trip — a visit to the Pat Tillman USO Center. This visit did not disappoint, as the Tillman Center was packed with troops for a meet-and-greet with the players. And of course, seeing the Tillman Center meant a tremendous amount to the players, knowing that the center is named for and dedicated to a member of the NFL fraternity who gave up his football career and made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
Over 10,000 troops pass through the Tillman Center in a given month. More than 300 servicemen and women visited during the meet-and-greet with our players to receive an autograph, take a photo, and chat with the players.
Another stop on Day 4 was the hospital on base. This not only gave us a chance to meet with all the hospital workers, but also visit with the patients who had been brought in from the field for emergency treatment. This visit was a sobering one, as the players spoke with troops in the ICU who only two days earlier had lost limbs in IED attacks. Several of these patients considered themselves fortunate because some of their squad members did not survive the attacks.
The last stop of our day was at a secret Special Forces compound where we had dinner with a group of Green Berets. After dinner, the Green Berets gave us a tour of their compound and showed us some of their advanced vehicles and weaponry. Needless to say, it was an impressive place, and a very impressive group of people.
Here are some of Davis’ personal pictures from the trip:
“Im in Qatar you all and I am having a blast on my USO tour. The troops are showing me everything and keeping me up to speed,” -Davis.
“I also had a chance to fly next to the pilot on my way into Afghanistan, take off and landing. We flew in on a c130,” -Davis.
“Since I’ve been on this side of the world, the craziest thing I did was get attacked by the k-9, even though I was protected it was a nightmare,” -Davis.
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