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Syracuse football players test military weaponry, work through leadership exercises


FORT DRUM — Reaching the midway point of a week of preseason practice, members of the Syracuse University football team took the opportunity Wednesday to get hands-on experience with the post’s weaponry and take part in Army team-building drills.

In a brief break period before going to lunch, offensive players spent time in a weapons simulator, held weapons used by the Army in combat and sat in arranged military vehicles.

Backup quarterback John Kinder laid on the ground with an M240B machine gun, as Pfc. Joshua B. Cole showed him how it would fire.

“Charge it back,” Pfc. Cole said. “And you start firing.”

Kinder pulled the trigger of the unloaded weapon, creating an audible click.

Pfc. Cole said the fully automatic gun could fire off 550 to 650 rounds in a minute.

“Wow ... heavy artillery,” Kinder said.

Players also lined up with a row of sniper rifles, using their scopes in an attempt to locate two soldiers who had hidden in the high grass of a nearby field.

With only a few minutes before a posed photo to end the session, offensive tackle Andrew Phillips and center Macky MacPherson hopped into a parked Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, also known as an MRAP.

“This looks like the Batmobile,” Phillips said, looking around the vehicle’s interior.

An instructor pointed out the vehicle’s global positioning system, along with its computers and sensors that allow it to operating in foreign combat settings.

Without enough time to start the vehicle and rev its engine as other players had, Phillips honked the horn before hopping out for a photo.

The players were overseen in the engagement area by 1st Lt. Jacob Wishko, a platoon leader with the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team. He called the opportunity for a group of civilians to hold military weapons rare, and said he hoped it would give them a better appreciation of the military’s work.

Lt. Wishko said the players’ enthusiasm had provided the overseeing soldiers some new inspiration.

“We’ve been working with this so long, we’ve kind of lost the childlike wonder of being around this kind of firepower,” he said.

Across the post, the team’s defense and special teams took part in leadership training exercises.

At one station, the team’s defensive line struggled to move logs through a small obstacle course impeded by two large tires. Players, prohibited from touching the ground, stood on smaller tires as they created a chain to pass the tire.

“All you gotta do is pass,” defensive tackle Jay Bromley said. “C’mon, guys ... let’s get it live.”

The team moved all of its logs across the path in four minutes and 45 seconds, just short of the allowed five minutes.

“Give a little something on it,” defensive end Micah Robinson said, bringing his teammates in for a high five.

Other challenges were loading and moving a 5-ton equipment truck and carrying a fellow player between two set points.

Another exercise had players calling out instructions for their teammates as they carried two heavy water tanks through a tight course, and a final challenge had players moving two different size tires at the same time while keeping them touching.

Practices will continue through the week, ending with a scrimmage open to soldiers and their families Saturday.

Syracuse loses D lineman

The Orange have lost sophomore defensive tackle Ryan Sloan for the season with a lower body injury.

The team also has lost junior running back Steven Rene for three to five weeks with an upper body injury.

The injury list doesn’t stop there. Coach Doug Marrone says senior strong safety Shamarko Thomas (upper body), junior defensive tackle Jay Bromley (lower body), sophomore cornerback Jaston George (upper body), junior cornerback Joe Nassib (lower body), sophomore defensive tackle Eric Crume (upper body) and senior offensive tackle Andrew Phillips (lower body) are listed as day-to-day.

The Orange open the season against Northwestern in the Carrier Dome on Sept. 1.

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