U.S. Air Force Veteran Turned NFL Star Flew Combat Missions In Iraq

Chad Hennings

One of the Dallas Cowboys had a brief military career flying in Iraq in two deployments – a stint that fell between playing football at the Academy and his time with the Dallas Cowboys.

Interior Lineman

Chad Hennings played football at the Academy, which he graduated from in 1988. In the 1987 season, Hennings had 24 sacks and was given the Outland Trophy, which established him as the nation’s best interior lineman.

Hennings became a College Football Hall of Fame member and was drafted into the Cowboys during the 11th round of the 1988 draft.

However, Henning already committed the military-a commitment he was set on fulfilling, even though it was a difficult decision.

Hennings said, “I wouldn’t say there were regrets, (but) it was an emotional struggle because I wanted to be able to compete.” Unfortunately, his love for competition made it difficult to go to flight school and complete his training.

Air Force

However, competitions at pilot school helped Hennings fill his need to compete. Hennings said, “We did compete on the range; we competed for performance. There (was) always competition and it was a healthy competition.”

Once he completed his training, Hennings was sent to the U.K. From there, he did two tours in Iraq out of the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey in 1991 and 1992. During that time he flew 45 sorties as a part of Operation Provide Comfort.

He thought about making a career out of the Air Force, leaving football in the past. “…I never really though about (football) until the Air Force went through the reduction in force and they started the waivers in the spring of ’92.”

Moving Forward With NFL

In April 1992, Hennings left the Air Force moving into the Air Force Reserves were he spent 10 years. In May, Hennings began working out for the Dallas Cowboys.

He said that the transition was “stressful.” He also was not sure if he would make the team, but he kept in shape while he was not flying or deployed, which helped his return to the sport.

He spend nine years playing for the Cowboys. He logged 119 games played and 27.5 sacks. His first season gained him his first Super Bowl ring against the Buffalo Bills.

“I essentially flew a combat mission and then played in the Super Bowl all within a year’s time.”

Chad Hennings

He went on to win two other Super Bowls.




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