Chairman’s USO Holiday Show Travels Throughout Combat Theater
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2007 American Forces Press Service reporter Jim Garamone is traveling with Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen and the holiday United Service Organizations show. Following are three vignettes on the group’s recent experiences.
Kid Rock performs at the USO Holiday Tour stop at Logistics Support Area Anaconda, in Balad, Iraq, Dec. 20, 2007. The tour also included seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong and comedians Robin Williams and Lewis Black. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley, USN
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Show in the Snow
CAMP PHOENIX, Afghanistan, Dec. 20, 2007 -- It was the “Show in the Snow” for the USO performers here today.
Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen brought the Chairman’s USO Holiday Tour to Afghanistan today. A C-17 carrying Robin Williams, Kid Rock, Lewis Black, Lance Armstrong and Miss USA Rachel Smith landed in snow at Kabul International Airport.
The temperature was right around freezing, and snow was falling. After shows in Kuwait and Iraq, the change in the weather came as something of a shock to all.
The snow was sticking to cars and the grass, but not to the road as the motorcade moved to Camp Phoenix. More than 2,000 servicemembers from all U.S. services and many of the 14 countries that mentor and train the Afghan National Army and Afghan police gathered in the snow to see the performers.
“This crowd is up,” Williams said as he watched Black perform. The snow and the wet didn’t dampen anyone’s enthusiasm, and the show was one of the best so far in the trip.
Kid Rock on Entertaining Troops
BALAD, Iraq, Dec. 20, 2007 -- Kid Rock is devoted to entertaining American troops as part of the USO.
The Detroit-based singer makes an immediate connection to American servicemembers. When he sings, the young servicemen and women sing along with “Cowboy,” “Sweet Home Alabama” and many other anthemic hits.
Rock said the question is not why he does it, “but how can you not?”
He said that every second with the troops is overwhelming. “They give their best every day, … and we absolutely must give them our best,” he said.
Being with the troops puts life in perspective, the rocker said, adding that he is proud of what the servicemembers do and wants to pay them back for their sacrifices. “The whole experience has been incredible,” he said. “I’ll do it to the day I die, so long as I am needed.”
Dust-up at COB Speicher
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq, Dec. 19, 2007 -- The Chairman’s USO Holiday Show has a grueling schedule, and it’s at the mercy of the weather.
Today was a good example. The performers woke up in Taqqadum, moved to Ramadi for a show, then to Contingency Operating Base Speicher, and were scheduled to perform at night at Contingency Operating Base Liberty near Baghdad.
Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen broke off from the group to tour downtown Ramadi to see progress with his own eyes and then flew to Baghdad for meetings with Multinational Force Iraq Commander Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker and Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Multinational Corps Iraq commander.
The USO performers made it to Contingency Operating Base Speicher and performed, but a sandstorm moved in and grounded all aircraft.
At the same time, more than 750 servicemembers had gathered at Camp Liberty to see the show. Once it became clear that the troupe could not make it to Baghdad, Mullen rushed to the stage to deliver the news personally.
He broke the bad news, conveyed the performers’ regrets and stayed to pass out his chairman’s coin to every one of the young men and women who came. His staff also distributed gifts that the USO had collected -- movies, video games, etc. -- from companies and individuals. No one went away empty-handed.
The next morning, the weather cleared, and the troupe reunited at Balad Air Base, northeast of Baghdad. Robin Williams went up to Mullen and thanked him for standing in for the performers. “I tried to convey to them how disappointed you were to not be there and how much they mean to all of you,” Mullen told Williams.