Chicago Bears cornerback joins enlisted Family in Balad

Story and Photos by Sgt. Eunice Alicea Valentin
196th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — The NFL players tower over their fans even while sitting, glowing from the Iraqi sun and the receptiveness of their fellow dinner guests — particularly Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman since he won the running tally of who has more fans, himself or New York Giant’s center Shaun O’Hara.

During their eight-day United States Service Organization tour in Iraq, Tillman and O’Hara flew into Joint Base Balad, Iraq for a meet-and-greet with service members, signed photos and sports memorabilia and shared dinner with troops May 9 at the Sergeant Audie Murphy Room in Dining Facility No. 1 here.

Tillman’s youth mentor, Master Sgt. Curtis Pitts, the reset noncommissioned officer-in-charge with the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and a Copperas Cove, Texas, native; his wife, Sgt. 1st Class Tamla Pitts, the property book team noncommissioned officer-in-charge with 13th SC(E), and Tillman’s uncle, Sgt. 1st Class Shaun Silas, the noncommissioned officer in charge of operations with the 249th Quartermaster Company, 2nd Battalion, 402nd Army Field Support Brigade, were in attendance.

Constant laughter spreads from one heavily populated table to another as Tillman and his Family share stories and review video footage on a mini-flip digital camcorder.

“Master Sgt. Pitts stayed three houses down and cooked for me and my teammates after football games,” Tillman said. “He made the best collard greens.”

Pitts remembers Tillman, now 6 feet 1 inch tall and nearly 200 pounds, as a young man in junior high and high school in Copperas Cove.

“We call him Peanut,” Pitts said. “His father and I are good friends and I’ve watched Charles grow through the years, playing football.”

“We were always going on deployments,” Pitts said. “Him [Tillman] being a good kid is an accomplishment due to having a military Family.”

According to Tillman, Pitts, Silas and his father, retired Sgt. 1st Class, Donald Tillman Jr., have been positive role models throughout his life.

Tillman’s father was a disciplined military man; he brought his lifestyle home and instilled it in his Family, he said.

“Yes sir, yes ma’am—time management … My dad taught me all of that,” Tillman said.

Tillman’s knowledge of Army values became more apparent as he described these quintessential male characters.

“These men are Family oriented, good Soldiers, and dedicated to their job. They have a mission to do, and they’re not going home until it’s done,” he said.

Pitts, who also sang praises to the idols, said the athletes’ presence here serves as a morale booster for his Family and troops.

Tillman and O’Hara toured forward operating bases surrounding Baghdad and Balad, Iraq, visiting and interacting with troops, wounded Veterans and federal police.

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the reception we’ve received from the Soldiers,” O’Hara said. “We’re here to thank them (the troops), and they in turn thank us.”

The pro athletes said they try to meet as many Soldiers as time allows.

“We try to leave Soldiers with a positive influence,” O’Hara said, “It has been a rewarding experience, and if my tour was extended I would stay in a heartbeat.”

 

 

 

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Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman (right) and his youth mentor, Master Sgt. Curtis Pitts, the reset noncommissioned officer-in-charge with the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), catch up during a dinner held May 9 at the Sergeant Audie Murphy Room in dining facility 1 May 9 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. During his eight-day United States Service Organization tour in Iraq, Tillman, and New York Giants center Shaun O’Hara toured small forward operating bases surrounding Baghdad and Balad, Iraq, visiting and interacting with troops, wounded Veterans and federal police. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Eunice Alicea Valentin)

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New York Giants center Shaun O’Hara and Sgt. 1st Class Tamla Pitts, property book team noncommissioned officer-in-charge, with 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) review video footage stored on a digital camcorder. During their eight-day United States Service Organization tour in Iraq, O’Hara and Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, toured several forward operating bases surrounding Baghdad and Balad, Iraq, visiting and interacting with troops, wounded Veterans and federal police. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Eunice Alicea Valentin)

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Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman (right) and his youth mentor, Master. Sgt. Curtis Pitts (left), with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), catch up during a dinner held at the Sergeant Audie Murphy Room in Dining Facility No. 1 here. During their eight-day United States Service Organization tour in Iraq, Tillman, and New York Giants center Shaun O’Hara toured several forward operating bases surrounding Bahgdad and Balad, Iraq, visiting and interacting with Troops, wounded veterans and federal police. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Eunice Alicea Valentin)