Troops Enjoy Chairman’s USO Holiday Tour Show
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
MANAS, Kyrgyzstan, Dec. 14, 2012 Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines received a rare treat today as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his annual USO holiday tour visited the Transit Center here.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey was joined by his senior enlisted advisor, Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia, and their spouses.
Dempsey introduced this year's lineup of USO talent to the raucous crowd of nearly 500 service members who came out despite freezing temperatures and ankle-deep snow.
“I am questioning my judgment coming in December. There's probably other times a year where we could have a different climate out there,” the chairman joked.
“We really do appreciate what you do up here,” Dempsey said. “And we know what you do up here whether it's refueling five, 100 [or] 600,000 passengers passing through, going to and from Afghanistan.”
Dempsey encouraged the troops to call home to their families during the holidays and pass on his appreciation to them as well.
“I also want you to pass on to your family members, however you connect with them, whether it's Skype, Facebook, text or phone calls,” he said. “Make sure you tell them that the chairman and the sergeant major said 'thanks' for their service, and we hope you will be rejoined with them soon.
“But in the meantime, thanks for what you do,” the chairman added.
Battaglia also greeted the enthusiastic crowd, assuring them if they continued their excitement they would have a “great time.”
“As the chairman said, we really are excited and honored to be sharing some part of Christmas here with you,” the sergeant major said. “And we know you can't, for the most part, make it home during the holidays and that's ok.
“We know that while you may not be with your families back home, you're with your family here,” Battaglia continued. “And that's what's important to us and that's one of the many reasons why we're so proud of each and every one of you.”
After hearing from their senior leaders, the service members were treated to a show featuring Washington Nationals Major League Baseball players Ross Detwiler and Craig Stammen; Matt Hendricks, a Washington Capitals' National Hockey League player; comedian Iliza Schlesinger, winner of NBC's Last Comic Standing and country music singer Kellie Pickler and her band.
Additionally, USO President Sloan D. Gibson, and Shane Hudella, of “Defending the Blue Line,” an organization that donates hockey equipment to military families, watched the show, having traveled with the group.
After the show, troops eagerly waited for photos and autographs from their USO guests.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Heather Chua, a protocol specialist from Spartanburg, S.C., said she thought the show was “great.”
“It was a lot of fun,” Chua said. “I've never been to a concert before or a USO show. I liked the comedian. I liked how she was so down to Earth and she was an actual person so it wasn't like she was just a celebrity here to entertain us. She was one of us, and it was a lot of fun.
“It's good that they want to come out and share our home with us for a little while, she added.
Air Force Airman 1st Class Miranda Kalander, a native of Prentice, Wis., was especially excited after she met and sang with Kellie Pickler during the show.
“I thought it was amazing,” the airman said. “I got let off work early just to come and see these guys. It's kind of a blessing just to be able to come and see them.”
Kalander, who’d been a contestant on the 2010 season of “American Idol,” said she was fortunate to get on stage when Pickler said she would only sing the song “Red High Heels” if she sang it with her.
“So I was like 'alright,' and I just turned around and dragged one of my buddies and brought her up there with me,” Kalander said. “I kind of felt a little star-struck standing next to Kellie Pickler [because] that's kind of my dream to stand up there and sing in front of people again.”