Aaron Tippin and his full band, traveled to South Korea to entertain the troops at several camps throughout South Korea. Aaron is no stranger when it comes to performing for the troops, but this was Aaron’s first time in Korea. While there, he visited the DMZ, where he did an acoustic performance.
PHOTOS (Courtesy of Dave Palmer)
PHOTOS (Courtesy of 1LT Michael D. Austin)
PHOTOS (Courtesy of LTC Eddie Eldridge)
PHOTOS (Courtesy of SrA Clayton T. Lenhardt)
MONDAY, OCTOBER 21ST – JAPAN TO KOREA:
Boy, ever had one of those days where just nothing goes as planned. Today was it.
Got up at 5 am so I could go to the airport with the group that is flying home today. I was in the lobby by 5:30 am and one of the people that Country Gold hires to work for us each year was there – very, very drunk. He started yelling at me in front of all the artists. I told him to go somewhere and sober up and then he could talk to me. Very embarrassing.
We arrived at the airport and I was ready to do battle regarding carrying on the guitars. We decided not to “mention” them and just try to make it to the gate with them. ANA airlines argued with me that Penny was not flying First Class. They had to call the Nagoya Airport to get confirmation. Then they let her check her 3 bags! We ended up only paying $90 for Daryle’s guitar. I left with Seiya to go back to the hotel and got a text message from Penny before we got out of the parking lot. Evidently security would not let them take the guitar through. They had to take them back to the check in counter and check them in. At least they didn’t charge them but only because Shoji flashed his ANA Gold card again. Now, keep in mind that the plane is an Airbus 320….definitely big enough to fit guitars in the overheard. They only checked them to Nagoya and are going to pick them up and “hand carry” them on the flight from Nagoya to Detroit.
I went for a jog to relieve some stress and then did Facetime with Zac and Zoe. I swear they have grown since I left them! Showered, dressed, and walked over to the Ginza and got a Quarter Pounder and threw away the bread for lunch. Really getting tired of McDonald’s hamburger patties. Found a couple of postcards for Zac anc Zoe but had to go into a department store to buy them. Kumamoto is just NOT a tourist town. I should have purchased them at the Castle and Volcano but totally forgot.
We arrived at the airport almost 3 hours before our flight. The flight time had changed and we had forgotten to change the departure time from the hotel to later to accommodate it. We are on Asiana and they did accept our Military Orders which state that each person can check 4 pieces. That NEVER happens. They finally opened the check in counter and we went through with no problem. We went through Immigration and then had to wait another hour for them to open the security scanner! It’s a tiny airport and there was no where to eat anything. The guys ended up buying some “snacks” to carry on the plane.
It was a short 1 ½ hour ride – but very turbulent. The plane wasn’t even half full. We landed on time, picked up all our equipment and luggage, and met our escorts outside. Really nice men and women taking care of us. As we were walking to McDonald’s (yes, again!) one of them told me that Aaron’s sound guy who had flown in today was being detained by Immigration. Evidently there was something on his record and Korea would not let him in the country. They are very, very strict about foreigners coming into their country. Our escorts had tried everything possible, but Korean Immigration was holding fast. I’ve contacted the Korean sound company and asked them to provide an engineer.
We had about a 2 hour bus ride to Camp Casey. Lodging is at Camp Casey and I’ve been here MANY times before. When they passed out room keys, they gave one of our escorts a key to a room that was occupied.
I have been hiding in my room doing damage control and working for several hours now. Have to get up at 5 am again tomorrow. We get our CAC cards and then go to the DMZ for a tour and as an acoustic show for the guys deployed there. Hope my luck changes by tomorrow!
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 22ND – DMZ VISIT:
Definitely feeling sleep deprived. This time difference is rough. When I need to go to bed, the office is just opening up and I’m getting dozens of emails.
Was up at 5 am, worked out, showered and walked down to the golf course restaurant. Was able to get an egg white omelet to go and take back to the room with me. It was so big, I only ate half and gave the other half to one of the guys.
We all went to get our CAC cards so we would have easy access off and on base and utilization of all the base facilities. The building where we had these processed has a Krispy Kreme donut shop right in the lobby. Aaron bought 4 boxes for everyone. Talk about torture, but I didn’t eat one.
We finished early and had about 1 hour to go back to our rooms before departure. Would have been much nicer if we could have gone over at 8:45 am instead of 7:45 am to have these issued in the first place.
We took a one hour bus ride up to the DMZ. First on the itinerary was lunch at the small DFAC and then Aaron performed an acoustic set for the soldiers. There were only about 35 in attendance but that’s a great crowd. There is a very small contingency here and most of them were working.
While Aaron was signing autographs and taking photos with everyone, I was talking to a lady who was escorting us. She mentioned something about her daughter and son-in-law moving from Nashville to San Antonio. I asked her their names and turns out it is SSG Jason Pepper and his wife Heather. Several weeks ago, Charlie Daniels’s manager had emailed me because she had received a request from someone in San Antonio asking if she knew anyone who could help the family. Jason was severely injured in Iraq years ago. He had a special home built for him and his family in Nashville. However, Ft. Campbell could not offer the type of medical assistance he now needs. So they were having to move from Nashville to San Antonio. It was a very expensive move because of all the special equipment Jason requires. Plus they have 3 young children. I contacted the Gary Sinise Foundation for assistance. This was on a Friday and they were moving the following week. Judy — who is the Administrative Director of Gary’s Foundation and a wonderful lady — spent her weekend working on this for them. She was able to provide the funds they needed to make the move! What a small, small world this is! And what a wonderful, caring person Gary Sinise is to provide this type of assistance to our wounded heros.
We departed the DFAC and had a briefing in another building and then went to the actual DMZ. We were allowed to enter a building where one half of the space is in South Korea and the other half is in North Korea. I have done this dozens of times but still had my photo taken in North Korea again. J We had a little time to shop in their gift shop and then did something I have never done in all my visits to Korea….we took a tour of one of the tunnels. These tunnels were built in the 70’s by North Korea to infiltrate South Korea. We had to wear hard hats and road a little monorail about 200 stories down under the ground. Then we walked for about a half mile. That’s when I figured out why we were given the hard hats. The “ceiling” was so low, we had to walk bent over. I whacked my hard hat on the ceiling and pipes hanging down several times as did everyone else. It was fascinating hearing the history of the tunnel which is one of thousands in Korea. When we walked back up to get on board the monorail, we found Ricky sitting on a bench and struggling for breath. Really scared me but the soldiers knew what to do. There was a portable oxygen tank mounted on one of the walls and they got him started breathing on it. He was fine in a matter of minutes.
We drove back to Camp Casey and had a little time for some base exchange shopping. I was on a search for de-caf coffee and found it easily at the Commissary. However, when I got back and opened a packet, I realized the instant decaf has sugar already added to the packet. Since I had already opened it, just had to throw everything away. L
We all had lunch at the Warrior Club and I had the best steak I’ve ever had in Korea. All the guys said the same thing about their meals, too. Several of the guys who are hosting us had dinner with us. Aaron really enjoyed the visit to the DMZ today and had a really nice time talking to everyone further about North and South Korea at dinner. When the guys picked us up for dinner, they only had one small van for the 7 of us and 2 of them. They had put water in the back area and the second row of seats were jammed up against the back row. There was nowhere for anyone to put their legs if you sat in the back row. Aaron insisted he could do it, so he climbed back there and squatted on the back seat. I told him it was a long ride to the Warrior Club but he insisted he was fine. I sat beside him but put my legs in the space between the two seats. When we were almost there, Aaron’s legs gave out and he sat down and straightened them out. In doing so, he managed to “scrape” my leg with his boot heel. I now have about a 2 x 2 inch patch on the top of my leg where the skin is missing. The escorts know not to pick us up with a situation like that again.
We got back to the lodging relatively early and I’ve been answering emails since that time. Almost 1 am and I am definitely calling it a night soon. Tomorrow is our first show full band show and we’re performing at Carey Fitness Center at Camp Casey.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 23RD – PERFORMANCE AT CAMP CASEY:
My “calling it a night soon” didn’t work out so well. Was on email with Lindsey trying to figure out why I can’t send email from my Blackberry. She finally called the guy I purchased it from when neither T-Mobile nor AOL could help her. He fixed it in a matter of minutes. Evidently, when T-Mobile rolled out their new “free international data plan” this week, it changed a lot of my setting on my blackberry. What a PITA!
So, worked out, showered, and met Aaron for breakfast at the Golf Course café. Then we went to AFN for a radio and TV interview. Had about an hour before meeting the guys for lunch at the Warrior Club. There was a buffet today with “Soul Food” and it was excellent. I had black-eyed peas and turnip greens. J
Aaron’s musicians went to the venue for sound check and Aaron and I headed to the “range” for some fun. And, boy was it fun! Unlike anything either of us had ever done!!! It was Paladin Live Fire. We got to ride inside the Paladin which is the vehicle that carries the Howitzer and they fired while we were in there. Very cool “boy toy” type of stuff which Aaron loves! All the guys up on the range were so excited to see Aaron. While they are based at Camp Casey, they spend weeks at a time on the range…sleeping in the dirt or whatever is available. All the dust reminded me of Iraq again but Aaron pointed out there were way too many trees for that.
We arrived back at sound check right on time and everything was going good. Finished a little early even! I found out at sound check that there is no alcohol allowed at the concert tonight. It will be a “family concert”. Sure hope that doesn’t affect our attendance!
Aaron had a “meet and greet” with VIP’s just prior to the concert. We had a huge crowd, so evidently the “no alcohol” didn’t make much of a difference. I was really surprised that so many families showed up on a Wednesday night. And, all the “brass” came out to support Aaron – Major General, Brigadier General, all the Garrison Commanders and spouses.
Aaron gave his wonderful, high energy wonderful performance. The audience LOVED him. He signed autographs and too photos with everyone after the show. AFE only sent me 400 autograph sheets for all our shows. I knew it wouldn’t be enough. We’ve only done one show and I only have 97 left. We still have two big shows left. I’ve had to ask each base to print more for us.
My email is down again!!! I can send emails to other people but can’t copy myself. So frustrating!!! I’m not staying up all night dealing with this again. L
We leave for a 5 hour bus ride to Kunsan Air Base, Korea tomorrow. That’s my favorite base in the world – home of the Wolf Pack!
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 24TH – TRAVEL TO KUNSAN AFB:
I keep forgetting to mention the kamikaze bus drivers in Korea. They do not stop for traffic or traffic lights until they are within 2 feet of the back of a bumper or intersection. Ever heard the saying, “Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes”. That is their philosophy when driving. The driver we had from the airport to Lodging was the WORST ever. They guys nicknamed him “Whiplash”. If you dare to stand up and try to walk down the aisle of the bus, chances are you’ll get where you’re going much faster than you intended and not in an upright position. And, oh joy – guess who is driving us for the 5 hour ride today from Casey to Kunsan – WHIPLASH!
Another tradition in Korea is their heating and air conditioning. They select a date where all heat will be turned off or on in the building for the “season”. Same for the air conditioning. I come here a lot in October and it’s always really hot during the day. The “day” to turn off air conditioning was Tuesday and so our rooms were sweltering during the day. Not bad at night because we could open the windows.
Was able to get in a good 3 mile run this morning before we departed. It was truly the “bus ride from hell”. This guy is the worst driver on the planet. Not only do we have to endure being jerked forward every 2 minutes as he slams on the brakes, but he has decided it’s fine for him to speed. There a governor on the bus which emits a loud high pitched whine when he goes over the limit. We have told him several times that this is a travel day and we are not in a hurry. Can’t believe we have 5 hours of this. The trip back on Saturday is only 3 hours and I sure hope we have a better driver!
We stopped at a “food court” for lunch and everyone went to McDonalds. There were some other restaurants but everything was written in Korean and we couldn’t actually tell what they were selling. McDonald’s didn’t have a “fork” so I had to walk next door to a mini-market and buy spoons. Ever eaten a hamburger patty with a spoon. Nice!
Tried to sleep a little on the rest of the trip but it’s not easy when being thrown out of the seat every few minutes. We arrived early because the driver drove so fast. The Wolf Pack was waiting for us as they always are. As we were driving in, there was a huge sign welcoming Aaron Tippin and Max Thunder. I thought Aaron was going to have an “opening act”! Turns out “Max Thunder” is a combined exercise with the Republic of Korea Air Force and features numerous aircraft including F-16s and F-15s. I believe they said there are 80 aircraft and something like 200 Marines and ROK airmen coming if for this. I know the lobby has been full all afternoon with guys checking in!
We were the first civilians to stay at the Wolf Pack Lodge when it opened a couple of years ago. It’s still as beautiful as ever! Had a few minutes to unpack and then Aaron and I went to visit the Civil Engineers and Vehicle Maintenance areas. We went through another 100 autograph sheets.
We had about an hour of “down time” and then joined the Wolf Pack for dinner. It was Mongolian BBQ and Aaron had never had it. He’s hooked! And what a great meal for someone on the Atkins diet. We sat with the Wolf, Falcon, Phoenix II, and I can’t remember who else and had a great time visiting with them. We did make the decision to move the show inside to the Loring Club because it’s going to be cold and the wind is blowing really hard. The wind really messes with Aaron’s head set mic. Best to have a smaller crowd but be inside where it’s warm.
Early start tomorrow and a very full, fun day. Aaron will visit the Med Group, Security Forces, and Flightline. By the way, it’s freezing in my room and no way to turn on any heat. L
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 25TH – KUNSAN AIR BASE PERFORMANCE:
I cannot believe we only have 2 days left in country. Time just flew by!
I forgot to mention that we made a “surprise” visit to the Fire Department yesterday. Boy, do they ever have some new “toys”. J
Met everyone for breakfast with some of the airmen at 8 am. This is the first time since I have known Aaron that he was late for lobby call. He was sound asleep, I think! After breakfast, Aaron made the rounds visiting with more people than I can remember. We started with the MedGroup and then Security Forces. Part of that was the K-9 demonstration AND shooting the 50 Cal. Finally, after all these years of holding a 50 Cal on my Facebook Photo, I got to shoot one. And it was mounted so I didn’t have to hold it. What a trip that was!
From there we had lunch with some Airmen and then went to visit the flightline. Visited mechanics, the people who load the bombs onto the planes, the people who make the bombs, the F16 fighters, the people who handle the radar, the control tower and Aaron also got to fly a flight simulator for an F16. It was a great day.
Sound check was quick and painless. If everyone we visited today who told us they are coming to the show really do, they will be turning people away. We definitely made the right decision to move the show inside. Its COLD and really windy!
The show was amazing. Aaron did a 15 minute AFN interview prior to performing. The Loring Club was PACKED. Fire marshall says 380 limit but I know there was more than that. And what a great, lively audience. Aaron and the guys did a great show once again. There were a lot of Marines in the audience as well as the Korean Air Force and buses even brought people over from Osan Air Force Base! I was hoping the line wouldn’t be as long for autographs since we actually signed over 300 during the day to today. But it was just as long as ever.
After Aaron finished signing, we walked over to the Wolf Pack Café for dinner. I had the chicken bulgogi and it was excellent. I HAVE to go to bed earlier tonight because we depart at 6 am. Know I can’t sleep on the bus if this driver is anything like Whiplash!
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 26TH – KUNSAN AB TO CAMP HUMPHREYS:
Had to get up at 4:30 am for the 6 am departure. Once again, Aaron wasn’t in the lobby and when I called his room, he was sound asleep. His alarm didn’t go off again. Of course, we will never let him forget that he was late twice. J
We stopped by the Wolf Pack Café for a quick breakfast and to meet up with our escorts. Our AFN escort was there but the two airmen who were supposed to ride with us were “no shows”. The AFN guy decided to go ahead and ride with us even though his purpose for going was to shoot some “behind the scenes footage” with Aaron and the airmen.
The bus driver was much better than “Whiplash”. He didn’t slam on the brakes but he did drive fast….all the time….even around curves. We departed at 7 am and stopped once for a 15 minute break because he had too. I told him to tell me when we were 20 minutes away from the base. It was supposed to be a 3 hour drive. At exactly 8:25 am, he told me we were 20 minutes away!
Had a little trouble getting on the base but only because there was confusion about us only needing to show our CAC cards. Then the bus driver couldn’t find Lodging. We had to stop twice and let me ask people where we needed to go. We finally arrive and Aubrey and Burt met us. They already had our room keys. Aaron and I had both met Aubrey when she was in Iraq as an MWR coordinator many years ago. Burt is a nice young man who is the Aquatics Director here on base.
The band didn’t think the sound company would be ready for them to sound check at 10:30 am, but they were. Really a good sound company! The guys went over at 10:30 and then called for Aaron to come over around 11 am. By 11:30 am, they were finished. We went to a restaurant on base called The Flightline Café. Food was really good there, too. The food on bases is much better than when I was here years ago.
After lunch several of us went to the base exchange and commissary. The Lodge says it has a business office but it doesn’t have anywhere I can print boarding passes. They sent me to the library which is closed for the Oktober Fest! I tried the USO but they do not have printing capability. I ran into Burt and Lucky and asked Burt if he has a printer in his office. Fortunately he does so I was able to print all the boarding passes…except Aaron’s. A message pops up that he is not eligible for online check in and must check in at the airport. No idea “why” since I checked him in online for our departure. Guess we will find out tomorrow morning. L
We have to depart to the show at 6 pm and first thing will be an AFN interview. Aaron knocked that out quickly. Then he had a visit from the 1-Star General, a Colonel, and MWR. All really nice people and thankful he is here to entertain their community.
Show started right on time. It is a HUGE Oktoberfest with all kinds of blow up houses for the kids, food booths with Bratwurst and German Potato Salad, and another stage with entertainment. And it is COLD outside….I mean really, really cold. But everyone stayed and loved the show. It was a family audience and even little children stayed through til the end of the autograph session. The 1 Star General not only stood by me the entire show but also stayed until the autograph line was over – around 10 pm. We went through all 200 autograph sheets and would probably have signed that many more if it had not been so cold.
We had “to go” plates with Bratwurst, etc. to take back to lodging with us. I had left my window open because now the heat is on in the rooms and we have no way of controlling it. My thermostat is set at 76.5 degrees and it’s an oven in my room. I figured it would be freezing when I returned, but it was still hot. I have now found a fan in my closet and have it going AND the window open.
Going to bed now because we have a 7:30 am departure to the airport tomorrow. It’s been a fantastic tour of Korea and I’m hope since this tour went so well, we can bring them entertainment more often.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 27TH – GOING HOME!
Forgot to mention that we had 4,500 people in attendance last night at Camp Humphreys. That’s a record!!!
Got up at 5:30 am and dressed for the trip home. Our bus driver was right on time and made the 2 hour trip in 1 hour and 20 minutes. LOL. He was the best driver we’ve had in Korea and spoke and understood excellent English.
No problems checking in except Aaron got “searched”. Evidently, someone is chosen at “random” for additional screening and that’s why I couldn’t check him in online. He got searched at the check-in counter and as we were boarding the plane. We had about an hour before boarding after we got checked in. I went to the Delta Lounge and they had scrambled eggs and sausage – great Atkins diet food.
When we boarded the plane, everyone had to go to a counter and have their bags searched again – after we had just gone through screening. They took my 2 bottles of water. I asked “why” and they said TSA Regulations. I said, “no it’s not! I’ve taken water on every flight” . But not a good idea to argue with them.
I gave the pilots and flight attendants “gifts”. These flight attendants are much nicer than the ones we had on the flight over. The flight is an hour shorter than going to Japan. I watched, “The Way, Way Back” and it was good. Got all my “thank you notes” out to folks so I’m feeling a lot less stressed. It’s the first chance I have had since leaving home.
The visit to Korea with Aaron was so awesome. We hit all the spots that really needed entertainment – especially after not having any celebrity concerts for more than 2 years. Our visit proves that we can navigate from base to base “flawlessly” thanks to the hard work of Frank Tagatac in Hawaii and all the POC’s at each Camp – Dan, Steve, Aubrey, and Bud!
The flight home was uneventful except for the large man snoring loudly behind me. He finally turned over on his side and the roaring ceased. Then we hit turbulence over Alaska and it seemed to last for hours. I hate turbulence….especially when I’m sitting by myself.
We landed in Detroit an hour early and I breezed through Global Entry. Then Aaron and I waited until the last bags were coming off for our “Priority” luggage. Delta seems to think that “Priority” means hold these bags as long as you can before sending them through! It’s the same every flight. And Delta blames it on the baggage handlers.
There was an earlier flight to Nashville that we could have made if seats had been available. I didn’t even bother to check because our bags would not have arrived on the earlier flight and it would have mean another trip to the airport to collect them. Gave me plenty of time to “work” in the Delta Lounge.
Lindsey went to Alabama today so the Z’s won’t be meeting me at the airport. L But they will be spending the night with me so there will be lots of snuggling going on.
We were sitting at the gate when our aircraft arrived for our flight to Nashville. I overheard the gate agent talking to the ground crew and they were telling her that something was “loose on the fuselage” and had to be checked out. I figured our flight would be delayed for quite a while but it wasn’t. They did, however, make an announcement that the water wasn’t working on the airplane and no one could use the restroom during the flight. Nice, huh?
We landed early in Nashville with all our luggage and equipment. Don’t know how this tour could have possibly been any better. Ready to stay home for a few weeks.