Cleveland Browns center Alex Mack signs a football of Sgt. Wilson of the U.S. Army. (USO Photo by Dave Gatley)
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PHOTOS: NFL Players Touch Down in Middle East for USO Tour

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

The USO and NFL continued their 46-year partnership by sending a convoy of pro football players on a seven-day, two-country USO tour to the Middle East. Making the trek were Carolina Panthers punter Jason Baker; 11-year NFL veteran and Travel Channel show host Dhani Jones; Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl center Alex Mack; San Diego Chargers two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Takeo Spikes and Houston Texans offensive tackle Eric Winston.

To date, the group has visited five military bases and lifted the spirits of more than 1,000 servicemen and women. Among some of the installations visited were Afghanistan's Camp Stone, Camp Arena and Forward Operating Base Farah.

* See more images on our NFL Tour Flickr set. 


Baker, Jones, Mack, Spikes and Winston pose for a group photo with troops at Camp Stone. Flying just behind the group are all the flags of the nations providing support to Afghanistan.



Mack captures video of a group of soldiers from the Ohio National Guard at Camp Stone as they sing their cheers for the Cleveland Browns.

Mack said: "The USO tour is a great opportunity to show our appreciation to our military. I think it’s really good for us to see what they go through and what they do. It’s great for them to be able to see that people care about them. Then we can further understand how important their work is and just how hard their job really is.” 


Baker, Jones, Mack, Spikes and Winston pose for a group shot with the troops at FOB Farah in Afghanistan.

Baker wrote: "I feel blessed to be able to go and share our appreciation directly with our service men and women in theater (Romans 12:8-21). It's great that the NFL and USO facilitate this so that we can draw further attention to the service and sacrifice that these men and women choose to make."



Mack signs a football of Sgt. Wilson of the U.S. Army during a USO/NFL tour stop at FOB Farah. Mack has a personal connection to our nation's troops as his father served in the U.S. Army and his cousin is a part of the U.S. Air Force.



Spikes almost gets gang tackled as he poses for a photo with a group of troops stationed at FOB Farah.

"I'm thankful for the opportunity to visit our service men and women overseas," Spikes said. "They take an extraordinary amount of pride in protecting our country and I'm very grateful for their commitment. This experience has been amazing."



Winston talks football with the troops at FOB Farah over a lunch prepared by troops.

"The USO tour has provided me a small glimpse of dedication and passion that our service men and women exude on a daily basis," Winston said. "Hopefully our visit will be uplifting for them and provide a small token of appreciation."



From left to right, Mack, Jones, Winston, Baker and Spikes pose for a photo at FOB Farah.

 * Find more images of NFL players and the troops on our Flickr set. 

USO Photos by Dave Gatley / Produced by Christian Pelusi 

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