FORT CARSON, Colo.** – Defensive end Kenny Anunike and long snapper Aaron Brewer are used to putting on approximately 12 to 13 pounds of gear every gameday. It's part of their Sunday ritual as NFL players.
But this was a Tuesday. Instead of being at a stadium, they were at Fort Carson, a U.S. Army installation just south of Colorado Springs. And the gear they put on weighed down on them — nearly 100 pounds, to be exact.
That's the weight of the uniform worn by members of Fort Carson's 71st Explosive Ordinance Disposal Company — a green and black EOD bomb suit. It took assistance from several members of the company to get the suits on Anunike and Brewer.
Their costume change was just a small part of the Broncos' visit to Fort Carson. As a part of the USAA Broncos Caravan and in celebration of the NFL's Salute to Service month, Broncos players, alumni and cheerleaders visited the local military men and women from various branches of the Army, including Special Forces and the 71st EOD Company.
"Today is a great day," said Kent Fortune, the Vice President and General Manager of the USAA Colorado Springs Campus. "USAA is the official military-appreciation sponsor of the Denver Broncos and we've partnered with them to bring military appreciation to life in Colorado … We have a lot of families in active duty here and so we've partnered with the Broncos to bring that alive."
The day started with rookie cornerbacks Lorenzo Doss and Taurean Nixon, alumni Rick Upchurch and Dave Studdard, and cheerleaders Sam and Sara greeting the service men and women, signing autographs. To conclude the meet-and-greet, Broncos President and CEO Joe Ellis was given a signed football from Colonel Chief Douglas Sims of Staff 4th Infantry Divisions, and Ellis spoke to the group before giving Sims a Broncos helmet.
"It's a great chance for us to come down and interact with some of the troops and some of the staff," said Ellis, "and get a real sense of appreciation and respect for everything that they do for our country."
The Caravan then went to visit the Special Forces -- also known as the Green Berets -- at the training facility and shoot house for a demonstration and chance to use the equipment. The Special Forces went over safety protocol before allowing the Broncos and staff a chance to use two types of firearms on a short-range target.
Current players, alumni and Denver Broncos Cheerleaders traveled to Ft. Carson to visit local service men and women from different branches of the US Army as part of the USAA Broncos Caravan. (All photos by Allie Raymond)
For the second half of the day, Brewer, Anunike and nose tackle Sylvester Williams, had a meet-and-greet with service men and women at a recreation center before heading to the EOD headquarters.
At the EOD headquarters, the Broncos and cheerleaders Angela and Katie had a chance to put on an EOD bomb suit, use robots used for bomb disposal and inspect a variety of bombs and trips. A specialist even showed the group how to disarm a bomb when a citizen (in this case, Brewer) was sitting on top of it.
"We put on a jersey and we go and play football. These guys put on Army fatigues and they go and risk their lives so we're able to go do what we do and be able to sit back and enjoy life," Anunike said. "These guys are the true heroes."