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On Tour with Toby Keith: Danger, Excitement, Gratitude

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 29, 2009 – Country music megastar Toby Keith has performed for rowdy, appreciative troops more than 130 times over seven straight years. But during this year’s “America’s Toughest Tour,” he said, “The boys and girls were rockin' and laughin' like never before.”

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Country music megastar Toby Keith started his seventh USO tour in Afghanistan April 21, 2009, and has been putting on shows at a series of remote forward operating bases, most of which haven't had any outside entertainment come through in six months. Here, Keith entertains Marines at FOB #2 in Bakwa. Looking over his shoulder, graphically depicted on an American flag, is movie legend John Wayne. At left is Scotty Emerick, a fellow performer and regular on the Toby Keith tours. USO photo by Dave Gatley

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Keith set out on his latest tour, sponsored by the USO and Armed Forces Entertainment, from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., April 21. His goals: meet as many troops and perform at as many remote bases as possible. The “FOB-hopping” trip took the performers to within six miles of the Pakistan border.

As he sat aboard an Air Force C-17 preparing for departure from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Keith took time to write a message for American Forces Press Service and the USO to share with servicemembers around the world.

Written in blog style, Keith’s message starts out with a tally of the hectic schedule of shows at forward operating bases and combat outposts in Afghanistan, reveals he’s written a new military-themed song, and shares his impressions of the tour:

“5 Days: 15 shows completed in Afghanistan -- 13 FOBs/2 COPs. The boys and girls were rockin' and laughin' like never before. This being my 7th year and 130+ shows, I've never seen them as energetic. That being said, The danger factor was at an all time high.

“Not since my early trips to Iraq have we been escorted in by gunships as often as we were on this visit. Thank you Cobra's and Apache's. Thanks to all our bird teams for the rides.

“I also wrote a new military song for this visit. It's called "The Ballad of Balad." Funny song about an Army recruiter. It made hard core crusted jaded FOB Sgt. Majors laugh out loud. I love it.

“I have tons of info to report back back home to the press. And as always, it's all good here. The U.S. military and their commanders are in complete control like always. 'Nuff said!

“I will close for now as this damn C-17 is shaking my penmanship somethin' fierce as we're leavin' Bagram.

“Mission accomplished Team USO – USA.”

Visitors to DefenseLINK, the Defense Department’s official Web site, can get more of the inside story from the tour. In a daily blog, Amy K. Mitchell, USO’s vice president for publications, chronicles the tour’s sights and sounds in a DefenseLINK Special Report.

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Related Sites:
Special Report: Toby Keith, “America’s Toughest Tour 2009”
Photo Essay: Part I - Toby Keith Entertains Troops in Afghanistan
Photo Essay: Part II - Toby Keith Entertains Troops in Afghanistan

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