NASHVILLE, Tenn. –** Titans coach Mike Mularkey wrapped up practice on Thursday, and thought he had a heck of a day.
He'd watched his quarterback, Marcus Mariota, turn in another solid outing. He saw more encouraging things from his team as the Titans prepared for Sunday's game against the Bears. And after practice, he shook hands and chatted with singer-songwriter Hunter Hayes.
Then he heard from his wife, Betsy, and found out he'd been trumped.
Betsy Mularkey was Facetiming him from an Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.
"Pretty cool," coach Mularkey said with a smile. "A once-in-a-lifetime experience."
Betsy Mularkey was one of 41 women who took part in G.I. Jane Day in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The 101st Airborne extended an invitation to female staff members and spouses of players and male staff members to take part in the memorable day at the Army base.
The group spent roughly four hours at the base, where they went through multiple obstacle courses, practiced rappelling techniques and even rode in the Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.
"It was unbelievable," said Jenneen Kaufman, Senior Vice President/CFO for the Titans. "It was so much fun, and they let us do some things I never would have dreamed in a million years that I would have an opportunity to do, and participate in, from rappelling to the obstacle course to riding a helicopter to being able to shoot an automatic rifle. It was amazing.
"I think for me, the best thing was realizing how incredible these soldiers are. I was in tears when we were pulling out on the helicopter because you think about how young some of these soldiers are and they are out there every day giving their lives for us to have all the freedoms we have. Until you get up there and witness what they do and see the gear they wear, it is incredible."
Maj. Gen. Andrew Poppas spoke to the ladies at The Sabalauski Air Assault School.
"From the feedback I received, a phenomenal time was had by all," said Lt. Col Martin O'Donnell, Public Affairs Officer for 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
"One of the things General Poppas focused on is teamwork, which is extremely similar to what the Titans focus on as a team. Having a great quarterback is wonderful, but if he doesn't have a good defense, and the players around him don't work together, it's just not going to work. It takes the entire team.
"Obviously when they first came through there was a sense of nervousness. But that's all part of the experience. They shared in the same teamwork and camaraderie that we share on a daily basis. They did great."
Back in May, the Titans players also loaded into buses and headed to Fort Campbell, where they experienced a similar day.
Like the team, the ladies learned about life on the base, and got a taste of life in the military. The ladies interacted with members of the military, and even witnessed a demonstration of how they sweep buildings in combat.
"(They were) shown the ropes similar to what the players did – the obstacle course, the rappelling wall, and I think they are actually getting to fire live weapons," Mularkey said. "I thought it was a really fabulous experience."
Kaufman, like others, was physically sore on Friday.
The events of the day before left a lasting impression
"When I see the military, I always say, "Thank you for your service,'" Kaufman said. "The next time I say that, it will feel different for me.
"What they do, it is not play. It's what they do in real life, and it really touched my heart. I think it made an impact on all of us."
Members of the Tennessee Titans Women's Association take part in Jane Wayne Day with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell. (Photos: Shereme Siewnarine)