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Punk Rockers 'Vandals' Perform for Troops in Iraq

By Spc. Jan Critchfield
National Guard Bureau

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 1, 2005 – Punk rock and military discipline - not exactly like shampoo and conditioner. More like fire and ice. But for some soldiers able to see the Vandals kick out the jams here Dec. 28, it almost seemed like they were back on the block, stomping like there's no tomorrow.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
The Vandals play for troops at Forward Operating Base Al-Amal in eastern Baghdad Dec. 28 during a tour of Iraq and Kuwait. Photo by Spc. Jan Critchfield, USA

(Click photo for screen-resolution image)

"I think it was an outstanding show -- I mean, a major relief on the tension out here," said Spc. Robert Skidmore of Company C, 115th Forward Support Battalion, while waiting in line to score an autograph. "I've been (following) these guys for some time. I had a bunch of blank tapes with Vandals written on it. You know, I didn't really know the names of the songs but just listened to them a lot when I was driving around in my car."

Skidmore said the performance provided a welcome respite for the soldiers. "We forgot we were in Iraq for a while," he said, indicating two buddies of his standing in the autograph line.

"We're having actually a great time in Iraq," bass player Joe Escalante said after the autograph session. "Everyone's nice. Everyone has a better attitude than we thought they'd have when we first got here. Everyone's a lot smarter than most people think the military is."

The Vandals' regular drummer was busy with other projects and didn't make the trip. Byron McMackin from the group Pennywise sat in for him.

The energy of the crowd at Al-Amal, the band said, far surpassed anywhere they had played during their tour of Iraq and Kuwait. "The show went very well," front man David Quackenbush said. "I know there's lot of people here that haven't heard of us, but it seemed like they were having a good time, and there were a lot of smiles. I think it was an awesome opportunity to come here and do this."

(Army Spc. Jan Critchfield is assigned to the 122nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)

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