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A Grand Slam Wing event: Al Udeid Air Base hosts Washington Nationals

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Devin Boyer
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

The 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, also known as the Grand Slam Wing, fittingly hosted representatives from the Washington Nationals Major League Baseball team as part of a live game presentation and television broadcast to raise morale of service members deployed at Al Udeid Air Base (AUAB), Qatar, July 4, 2023.

In a heartwarming gesture, the Nationals invited family and friends of AUAB service members to attend the game in our nation’s capital. During the game against the Cincinnati Reds, the Nationals set up a two-way livestream to share traditional game day events including an honorary first pitch, games, prizes, and a Salute to Service, to troops and their families at both locations.

America’s favorite pastime worked as a bridge connecting loved ones separated by thousands of miles. Through the two-way stream, families were able to see and interact with their deployed loved ones on the scoreboard, sharing smiles and words of encouragement. Live footage from the watch party was included in the game’s MASN broadcast, which was simulcast around the world on American Forces Network.

Senior Airman Caleb Davis, 379th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, gave a shout-out to his family back at the stadium while performing a K-9 demonstration.

“I just want to shout out to my parents … I love you guys. To my old lady, I love you, and your mom, I love you too,” Davis said with his dog latched to his bite suit.

To kick off the game, Col. Matthew Clausen, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing deputy commander, threw the game’s first pitch at AUAB, while his three sons threw the first pitch at Nationals Park.

To make the event even more memorable, former Nationals player Adam LaRoche took the opportunity to meet with the deployed members at AUAB, offering his support and appreciation for their service.

“When I went to D.C. and played with the Nationals and got to spend time at Walter Reed Military Medical Center is when relationships with the military became personal,” LaRoche said. “It was sad and hard to go and have conversations with 21-year-olds that were over in Afghanistan or Iraq a week before that, fresh off the battlefield.”

LaRoche said many of the service members he interacted with at Walter Reed were eager to get back to the fight to support their teammates, and that his interactions with them gave him a new perspective.

“We get incredibly spoiled living in this bubble, and most of us don't get a look behind the curtain to see why that is, and why we have the freedoms we do,” he added.

The Nationals got a taste of the deployed environment when they toured the facilities and learned about the mission at AUAB. Even their mascot, Screech, embarked on a special mission of his own. He toured the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing’s K-9 unit, explosive ordnance disposal unit, fire department, KC-135 Stratotanker and C-17 Globemaster III.

“I think I can speak for everybody here when I say that it meant a lot,” said Senior Airman Grady Broussard, 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron fire department driver operator. “The Washington Nationals came here with a positive attitude. Adam LaRoche, especially, was super attentive and cared about what we had to say and wanted to better understand how we operate and train to do the mission.”

Broussard not only assisted in the tour, but also attended the simulcast event where he and hundreds of other Airmen celebrated Independence Day.

“The turnout was amazing,” he said. “There was a lot of positive energy and it definitely boosted morale for the Airmen here. I didn’t see anyone there without a smile on their face.”

Being far from home and away from loved ones can be challenging for service members. Engagements like the Washington Nationals visit can give deployed members a slice of America and show appreciation for their sacrifices.

“We value every Grand Slam Airman, and we are grateful to the Washington Nationals for their recognition of our deployed teammates and their loved ones back home,” said Brig. Gen. Doug Jackson, 379th AEW commander. “Our Airmen execute our critical mission every day; opportunities like this keep motivation high as we generate combat airpower.”

The Washington Nationals representatives left AUAB with a new perspective of the deployed life and what the service members do to uphold national security every day.