The 116th Air Control Wing is set to deploy out of Warner Robins Air Force Base in the coming weeks but before heading out, the group got a pep talk from a pair of special guests from the University of Georgia.
Head coach Kirby Smart and new secondary coach Charlton Warren spoke to a crowded room of service members preparing for deployment.
“I don’t think people really acknowledge and understand what exactly you guys do,” Smart said. “The group you’re able to have here that is out of Warner Robins, it means a lot to me being a kid from the state of Georgia.”
Afterward, he took photos and signed autographs for the unit and their families. Smart said his appearance at the base was a chance for him to give thanks to the men and women who are serving the country.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Telegraph
Middle Georgia is an already-familiar stop for Smart, who said the area has supported him at both of his in-state coaching jobs at Valdosta State and the University of Georgia.
“I have basically made my living coming through Houston County, Warner Robins, Northside-Warner Robins, Peach County,” he said. “This base has been great to the University of Georgia, first and foremost because a lot of the kids that come to school at the University of Georgia, their parents work here on this base.”
The connections don’t just end with the players that come to UGA.
Warren, who was recently hired away from the Florida Gators, was also making a return to the base where he spent three years while in the Air Force.
“I graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1999, I guess this was actually my second duty station,” Warren said. “This is sort of where I got my feet wet being an active duty officer in the Air Force.
“Events like this and the importance of people are paramount to having a great football program,” Warren said. “I think an event like this with Coach Smart coming here shows how he is very appreciative and we as a university are very appreciative of what the military community and the people of the great state of Georgia do.”
Lt. Colonel Mike Roy, the commander of the 116th, helped recruit Smart to come down and viewed it as a vital component of boosting the morale of the unit. The energy inside the room clearly grew as Smart and Warren took the stage to speak.
“I think events like this really help the morale and I think everyone is excited,” Roy said. “I think this is a special event that these guys will always remember.”
It was an event that both Smart and Roy deemed a family-oriented event, which is part of the reason why Smart brought along his wife and kids.
“We think of our unit as a family and that was really cool that he brought them,” Roy said. “It means a ton to the families because it really shows how important their mission is.”