- @ Florida Gators - March 8, 2014 - 12:00 PM EST - O'Connell Center - Gainesville, Fla. - CBS
(special thanks to Jim Barnhart for the video feed)
John Calipari proudly displayed his true colors on Monday: red, white and blue.
Showing his support and appreciation for deployed troops from the Kentucky National Guard, Coach Cal joined Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and Major General Edward W. Tonini to speak with troops from the 1204th Aviation Support Battalion currently stationed in Kuwait.
Sitting in Coach Cal’s office with a live video feed steaming to Kuwait, via Skype, Calipari, Beshear and Tonini talked with troops about Kentucky basketball and answered questions during a 30-minute live chat. The session was an opportunity to connect with deployed Kentucky troops, keep their motivation up and show appreciation for their service to the United States of America.
“I’ve been overseas on about six different occasions and I can tell you absolutely that the No. 1 morale factor that exists is the University of Kentucky basketball,” Tonini said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to actually watch UK games live in five different countries and I’m in the process of planning a trip to visit these people in Kuwait, which will be the sixth country. I’m undefeated and I intend to stay that way.”
Kentucky freshman forward Anthony Davis also stopped by during the call to speak with the troops for a few minutes before heading to class. He signed 50 of the “Wingspan” posters UK produced last week to send to the Kentucky-clad troops in Kuwait.
“The First Lady, Jane Beshear, went to see them off last August and she told them at that time that she was going to prepare a special treat for them,” Beshear said. “Most of them are UK fans, obviously, and this is the result. We contacted Coach and he very willingly stepped up. … You talk about an exciting bunch of men and women, they were excited to see the coach, and Anthony Davis got to come in and say hello to them and show them his wingspan. It was just a great day for everybody.”
At the end of the video call, Tonini presented Calipari with a plaque to signify him as an “Honorary Guardsman” of the Kentucky National Guard.
“What an honor it was to sit with Governor Steve Beshear and Major General Edward W. Tonini and connect with our Kentucky troops who are making this country a safer place,” Calipari said. “The seat I’m in as the head basketball coach at the University of Kentucky gives me a platform to do a lot of great things, but this was an absolute privilege to speak with the 1204th Aviation Support Battalion.
“I told the guys on the call that they will be in my thoughts and prayers every morning when I go to Mass. I just can’t believe how big of UK fans they were. They were nuts!”
The 1204th Aviation Support Battalion was organized in the Kentucky Army National Guard in September 2007. The 1204th Aviation Support Battalion includes Headquarters and Support Company and Alpha (Distribution) both stationed in Independence, Ky., as well as an Aviation Intermediate Maintenance Company headquartered in Alabama, with a detachment in Florida and a Signal Company located in Maryland.
The Kentucky element of the 1204th Aviation Support Battalion is made up of approximately 325 soldiers. The 1204th, led by Lieutenant Colonel Tom Roach, mobilized in August, went to Camp Atterbury for several weeks of training and arrived in Kuwait in October. The 1204th is expected to return home approximately June 2012, but no definite date has been set.
The 1204th is providing logistical, maintenance and signal support in support of Operation New Dawn. Troops include aviation test pilots, avionics repair specialists, mechanics, force protection (security) personnel, logistics and other support personnel.
There are approximately 8,500 members in the Kentucky National Guard, which has a dual mission to support the nation in time of war and support the state in time of natural disaster and emergencies.
UK-Vanderbilt notes: Calipari’s gamble with Miller pays off