Brad Huber will be bringing a little bit -- actually, quite a bit -- of home to Americans stationed at an Iraqi military base this Super Bowl Sunday.
Huber is a chief warrant officer 2 with the Army in charge of eight dining facilities at an air base in Balad, 40 miles north of Baghdad. He serves roughly 20,000 people a day in three main dining halls and five satellite facilities.
Come Sunday (early Monday, to be exact), Huber will be in charge of a special effort to make everyone feel at home when the Super Bowl is broadcast, even with a 1:30 a.m. Iraq-time kickoff. There will be football cakes and pastries, finger foods, "patriot pizzas," and two beers for each soldier.
"It's trying to get them to enjoy the creature comforts of home and to try and get them to relax," said Huber in a telephone interview earlier this week.
Holidays and special American events like the Super Bowl can be strange at military bases abroad. The concept of an important football game means soccer to most of the foreign nationals who work in the dining facilities. But Huber, a longtime Packers fan, says his workers make the best of it, putting up decorations and providing the snacks that are part of enjoying the game.
"To them it's another event they have to prepare for, but they do like helping us out," he said.
Huber, 32, is a resident of South St. Paul who grew up in Cottage Grove and is stationed with the 644th Regional Support Group at Fort Snelling. He's on his second deployment, working with an Army Reserve unit out of Iowa. Unemployed back home, he hopes to parlay his food service experience in the military into similar work in civilian life. The lavish preparations will be a far cry from his first experience in Iraq. He was stationed at Balad during Operation Iraqi Freedom I, making his way up from Kuwait and cooking for 1,500 soldiers in a mobile kitchen and sleeping on a cot on a dirt floor.
Perhaps bringing new meaning to the word "tailgating," he remembers eating a turkey Meal Ready to Eat (MRE) on Easter Sunday 2003 while riding into Iraq on a 2 1/2-ton cargo truck.
Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434