FORT HUACHUCA - While the Arizona Wildcats held their first of two grueling practices Thursday, two dozen men belonging to Company A, 2-13 Aviation Regiment were formally introduced to Army life.
Steps from the UA's pristine practice surface at Warrior/Sentinel Fields, the soldiers - all unmanned aerial systems operators and maintenance workers - ran laps as part of a physical training test.
They then marched off the field to a sung cadence.
At the end of each line, nine words: "So early, so early, so early in the morning."
The UA will have plenty of early mornings and late nights during its four-day stay on the Army installation. Amid the 6:30 a.m. wake-up calls, practices, meetings and film sessions, the Wildcats will figure to come closer together as a team.
First-year coach Rich Rodriguez said Thursday he's already impressed with the setup. The trip has been an annual tradition since 2008, when coach Mike Stoops first took his team off-campus for bonding.
"I like it," said Rodriguez, the son of a Marine. "It's the environment we're looking for."
The UA's goals this time around are twofold: to tighten up their practices after a sloppy start and to bond during the time spent together in the barracks.
Thursday marked the first of two planned two-a-days while at Fort Huachuca. The team will work once today and twice Saturday, with the late practice doubling as a scrimmage.
Rodriguez's philosophy on double days differs a bit from past years. The team worked out Thursday morning without pads, and went a bit shorter - one hour 15 minutes, instead of two hours - than they typically do on days with just one workout.
The relatively quick practice served as a warm-up for Thursday's night session, which went more than two hours and included full pads and hitting.
"It's definitely changed," junior guard Chris Putton said. "I think these two-a-days are going to be more structured, and we're going to get a lot more out of them than last year. I think it's just about getting after it when we're in full pads."
Tracking the Wildcats' practice will be tough. The Fort Huachuca workouts are closed to the public, and media can watch only the first half-hour. On-base personnel, however, can watch every workout and Saturday's scrimmage for free.
The Wildcats are aware of the audience - and, for Putton, it's extra special. The German-born offensive lineman became an American citizen July 4.
"It makes me really proud, you know?" Putton said. "It makes me proud to see (soldiers) out there marching and working. I think it's a blessing that we have guys like that going out there.
"It makes us proud to give them a show."
Running back Ka'Deem Carey noticed the soldiers' poise and body language as he bused to Thursday's first practice. It was good, for being so early in the morning.
"I like the way they carry themselves: As one," he said. "If we can pick up and become one over here, like the soldiers do, that'll be great."
• Junior B.J. Denker will likely open the season as the Wildcats' backup quarterback, with freshmen Javelle Allen and Josh Kern battling for the third-string spot, coach Rich Rodriguez said. Alex Cappellini, who played second string in spring drills, is now taking snaps at wide receiver. Denker transferred to the UA after spending three seasons at Cerritos (Calif.) College. The lefty "has done a really good job of picking up the offense in a week or two," Rodriguez said.
• The UA has installed all of its special-teams packages except for the onside kick and "hands" return team, Rodriguez said. "We're going to work on them every day," he said.
• John Bonano is back to kicking after missing most of the first week with a leg injury. He and Youngstown State transfer Jake Smith are expected to compete for the starting place-kicker's job.
Training camp: Day 7
At Fort Huachuca's Warrior/Sentinel Fields
• Temperatures at start: 82 degrees at 8 a.m.; 91 degrees at 6 p.m.
• Walk-on watch: Safety Vince Miles has opened eyes through the first week of camp. The 6-foot-1-inch, 189-pound freshman played last season at East Palo Alto (Calif.) St. Francis High School.
• The big number: 5,800. Number of active-duty soldiers at Fort Huachuca. It's a stunning number given the fact that the base is practically spotless. "I don't want us to leave a speck of dirt or trash anywhere," UA coach Rich Rodriguez said. "If they have that kind of discipline with 5,000, I'm sure we can have it with 105."