Mullen, USO Performers Thank Troops in Kuwait
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait, April 1, 2010 The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff ended a trip to the U.S. Central Command region with a stop to meet logisticians here.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen also brought USO celebrities with him to remind servicemembers that the American people love them and think of them.
Mullen told servicemembers and civilians at a USO event at the airport that he appreciates their hard work, and said they are the unsung heroes of America’s wars.
The men and women in Kuwait are responsible for sustaining almost 200,000 U.S. servicemembers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. The 3rd U.S. Army also is responsible for planning and executing the drawdown from Iraq and the surge in Afghanistan. They get equipment out of Iraq and ship it either to Afghanistan for further use by troops or to the United States, where the equipment helps to reset the military.
The chairman also met up with USO entertainers he sponsored for a trip through the region. James Gandolfini and Tony Sirico of “The Sopranos” joined with Rose McGowan of the television show “Charmed” and Brian Stinchcomb, a lineman for the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, to bring a taste of home to troops overseas. The visits also give the USO personalities a look at the sacrifices servicemembers face.
The chairman tries to visit the U.S. Central Command area of operations at least once a quarter, and he brings USO entertainers and personalities with him. On this trip, the USO portion of the mission launched separately because of President Barack Obama’s trip to Afghanistan. Mullen delayed his trip by a day so as not to interfere with the president’s visit.
The USO performers left Joint Base Andrews-Naval Air Facility Washington in Maryland on a C-17 March 27. They arrived at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, the next day and immediately began meeting the troops. They choppered to Forward Operating Base Airborne and held what the USO calls “meet and greets” – they met with soldiers, shook their hands and spoke with them.
Troops saw Gandolfini and Sirico and started yelling “Fuhgeddaboutit,” a signature line from “The Sopranos,” to them. Stinchcomb, at 6-feet, 6 inches tall, looms over most people. He said he didn’t feel too out of place among a group of soldiers, because many of them work out in their free time.
The USO contingent went back to Bagram, where they held another meet and greet at the “clamshell” amphitheater before turning in.
The group toured the Joint Operations Center on March 29 and met members of the air expeditionary wing. The celebrities also visited the hospital and the Pat Tillman USO Center before flying to the NATO base in Kandahar, where they met NATO servicemembers at the base’s boardwalk and visited with American troops at other parts of the base.
On March 30, the group met members of the 19th Engineer Battalion and then flew to Kabul International Airport in the afternoon. In Kabul, they toured the new facilities at the base, met with servicemembers, Defense Department civilians and U.S. contractors.
The USO group met up with Mullen yesterday afternoon just before flying to Kuwait aboard a C-32 aircraft.