By Adriane Schwartz
Ten days before commandos swooped down on Osama bin Laden’s compound, the U.S. military’s highest-ranking officer was spending time with a football hall-of-famer and a Latin pinup.
Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, accompanied former Don Francisco girl Mayra Veronica and NFL hall of famer Bob Griese on a mid-April USO tour to Iraq and Afghanistan, RadarOnline.com and Star magazine have learned exclusively.
Then Mullen mysteriously broke from the troop-supporting trip to spend a day just a few miles from bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan – at a time when the mission was in the final planning stages.
And when Mullen returned to the USO tour, Griese said, Mullen looked troubled.
“When I saw him that day (April 20, 10 days before the raid) I asked him how he was doing,” said Griese, who quarterbacked the 1972 Miami Dolphins to the only undefeated season in NFL history. “He told me he had a tough day.
“Once we got home and I heard about the bin Laden thing, I started wondering how our trip fit into the whole thing.”
On May 1, Mullen stood at the shoulder of Pres. Barack Obama as White House officials watched on closed circuit television the nerve-racking raid that killed the mastermind behind the 9-11 attacks.
The USO trip, meanwhile, was one of many over the past months to entertain and boost the morale of U.S. troops throughout the world. Veronica, 34, a shapely model best known for having replaced reality star Kim Kardashian in New Orleans Saints star Reggie Bush’s bed, had been on plenty USO trips. She didn’t suspect anything was up during this one.
In hindsight, however, she realized otherwise.
“The trip must’ve been part of the plan,” she told RadarOnline.com and Star. “There were a lot of high-ranking people with us.
“The admiral was very nice. He talked about how his dad was a Hollywood publicist and about the political situation in South American countries.”
Griese said the tour was postponed several times, which is why he and Veronica were tapped.
“This particular trip was supposed to be for (singer) Shakira and (former Miami Heat basketball star) Alonzo Mourning. But because it kept getting pushed back, they couldn’t make it,” the retired college football TV analyst said.
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Griese said the group – about 50 people, including Mullen’s security staff – took off April 17 from Andrews Air Force base near Washington, D.C., in a giant C-17 plane.
“Admiral Mullen had his office and his living quarters in there,” Griese said. “They recreated his regular working conditions so he could get a hold of the president at any time if he needed to.”
Griese said the plane first landed on Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. Griese and Veronica spent their days meeting with troops for pictures and pep talks while Mullen and the brass were off on their own.
“Every night, we’d meet again and fly to other bases,” Griese said. “We flew to a new base every night. We spent four days in Afghanistan then moved to Iraq for two more days.”
Griese said he didn't know if the USO tour was used as cover for the admiral during planning of the raid, or if it was simply a matter of keeping normal activities going to not draw suspicion.
"All I know,” Griese said, “is that I met some great young men and woman over there.”
And a couple days after the terrorist’s killing, Griese said he emailed Mullen a congratulatory note.
“I told him he could call on me again at any time,” Griese said.