CAMP KOREAN VILLAGE, Iraq --
In the middle of the night, the dining facility aboard Camp Korean Village, Iraq in the far western Al Anbar province resounded with the sounds of troops cheering for their respective teams during the live broadcast of Super Bowl XLIII on Armed Forces Network.
The game kicked off at about 2 a.m., and the dining facility was dominated by Pittsburgh Steelers fans, mostly from Company E, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, a Marine Forces Reserve unit headquartered in Harrisburg, Pa.
“The loyalty of Steelers fans is unmatched,” said Lance Cpl. Joseph Dugan, a 20-year-old rifleman from Company E who is currently assigned to the battalion commander’s personal security detachment. “No fans’ loyalty in the NFL compares to that of the Steelers. No matter where you go in the country, or in the world, you will always find us.”
“I wish I was home, at a Super Bowl party with my friends at college right now,” said Duggan. “But this is pretty good what they did here.”
The dining facility was kept open all night so that troops would have somewhere comfortable to watch the game at the remote Marine outpost.
“Service, service, service, that’s what we do here,” said Gregory Caldwell, the KBR dining facility manager. “This is a safe haven. You never know where these guys have been. We wanted to go all out, with pizza, jalapeno cheese poppers, wings and other food throughout the night. This DFAC is used for special occasions like this. We want to make sure they’re comfortable; as close to home as possible.”
A native of Houston, Texas, Caldwell was pulling for the Arizona Cardinals. “I always like the underdogs,” insisted Caldwell. “Everyone needs a chance.”
Lance Cpl. Benjamin Hines, also a member of Company E, was able to take a rare break from driving his team’s Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle on patrol to watch his Steelers fight for the NFL title.
”It’s definitely an interesting opportunity,” said Hines. “I’d rather be at home watching it with my family, but it’s also great watching it with the guys from my company.”
Hines expressed his gratitude to the KBR management who went out of their way to provide a pleasant environment for the Marines to see the game live.
Although the Super Bowl was a huge event for the combat troops and civilian employees based here, there was no break in operations for this event.
At halftime, the dining facility staff had to take down the projector screen and prepare for the 5 a.m. breakfast rush.
As troops and contractors coming in from military convoys or preparing to go out on patrols filtered into the facility for omelets and pancakes, Steelers fans watched in horror as the Arizona Cardinals, who had trailed the entire game, drove down the field twice in the fourth quarter to take the lead by a score of 23-20 with about two and a half minutes left in the game.
“How can the Steelers let them do this?,” asked Dugan incredulously. “We can’t lose like this!”
The Pittsburgh Steelers and their quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, obviously agreed with Dugan. They took the ball on their next possession and marched back down the field.
With less than 40 seconds to go, Santonio Holmes, a Steelers wide receiver, caught a toe-reaching touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone to put the Steelers ahead.
“My heart is only at this rate when I do sprints,” exclaimed Dugan.
Many of the Marines breathed a sigh of relief, slapping hands and congratulating each other. Others, more indifferent to the nail-biting finish, quietly ate their breakfasts and watched the post-game show, preparing for their day of patrols or convoy escorts.