Soldiers help to build ESPN studio in Kuwait
When ESPN starts its weeklong “Salute the Troops” live broadcasts from Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Tuesday morning, they’ll not only thank the troops for their service, but for the entire SportsCenter studio.
Soldiers assigned to this camp had their hands in nearly every aspect of the Kuwaiti SportsCenter studio and offices — from construction to camouflage.
“It was a collective effort,” said ESPN senior coordinating director Dave Weiler. “I think it’ll look great and give a flavor of what life is like here.”
Soldiers from Company B, 448th Engineer Battalion of Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico, spent five days building a 40- by-60-foot stage, EPSN’s wooden office complex, and camera platforms in one of Arifjan’s large warehouses.
Staff Sgt. Joseph Figueroa, who designed the SportsCenter studio facilities, actually does set construction in San Juan. “We do props, sets and special effects for TV and films,” he said.
Figueroa and his wife, Zina, started their company, The Prop Hunters Inc., 20 years ago. “When they told me that they needed a stage I thought it was odd, like God put this in our path," he said.
All together, 21 soldiers from the 448th helped build the studio. “They’re young, dedicated and talented,” Figueroa said. “I told them all to promise not to be my competition when we’re back.”
Their dedication and construction talents were definitely noticed by the ESPN crew.
“I’ve said this before, the people we pay money to help us aren’t as helpful as the people here,” said ESPN senior coordinating producer Mike McQuade.
Soldiers also decorated the set, creating corner bunkers, a mortar position, tent and sandbagged anchor’s desks.
“It’s how you’d see it in the field, but not to scale,” said Master Sgt. Brian Washington of the Area Support Group Kuwait, who along with Master Sgt. Herbert Almond and Sgt. 1st Class David Dismukes oversaw the soldiers’ work.
“We’re trying to make it look good,” said Spc. Lucas Monahan of the 175th Maintenance Company, an Army Reserve unit from Fort Jackson, S.C. “[ESPN] put in their input, we put in ours, and this is what we got.”
Nearly two-dozen soldiers from the area support group worked to clean and decorate the stage, plus set up dozens of Army cots for seats, said Washington. A large bank of bleachers was towed in for additional seating.
Washington, the support group’s operations sergeant major, said that soldiers from the camp’s facilities engineering department and director of installations office also helped out.
“Soldiers can do anything,” said Dismukes. “They make a lot happen; just tell then what you want and give them the resources to do it. This is the proof.”