Once again Aaron Tippin and his band, along with Bill Cowan travel to Kuwait and Iraq to entertain the troops for Thanksgiving and bring a little taste of home to those stationed so far away during this holiday season.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 19TH AND SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 20TH, 2011 – NASHVILLE TO KUWAIT:
Can you believe I was at home for almost 4 weeks???? It was wonderful!!! But, packing was a nightmare. My bags were much too light and I’m sure I forgot half of what I’ll need. How quickly I forgot “how to pack” for these trips to the desert!
Aaron Tippin is spending his SIXTH consecutive year in the AOR entertaining the troops over Thanksgiving. He gives up his Thanksgiving at home with his family to come over here and say a special thanks to the troops in Kuwait and Iraq. One year, we even went into Afghanistan for the tour.
We all met at Customs at 10:30 am and, as is usual with Aaron’s group, everyone was on time. Went straight to the airport for check-in. The “new” girl behind the counter at United wanted us to use the kiosks for check-in. It was taking forever, so she finally took all our passports and agreed to check us in. She kept calling some female’s name and finally our sound tech told her that was his wife’s name. No idea how she found that information and why it would have been in our records! Finally got checked in and moved Aaron’s seat so that he was sitting by me in the Exit Row. When we went through security, the agent looked at him and said, “no way your name is Rebecca”! We looked at his new boarding pass and that was the name on it! Had to go back to the counter to have it re-issued.
Flight to Dulles was full (one of those little jets that I HATE) but no turbulence and we landed on time. Had a short layover – about an hour – and Colonel Bill Cowan met us in the Red Carpet Lounge. Poor guy had to drive to Richmond, VA and then FLY back to DC (where he lives) to connect with us. He has to do the same thing on the return. The cost difference to fly roundtrip Dulles/Kuwait as opposed to flying Richmond/Dulles/Kuwait is over $5,000 for business class. Makes NO sense to me. I answered emails the entire time we were in the Dulles airport. When we boarded, Aaron was sitting in the window seat next to Bill and I was right across the aisle from them. The flight attendant was one that I have had several times before and he met me with a large bottle of water – the only thing I ever ask for on the flights! They know me well now. I put the water on my armrest and walked up to the cockpit to give the pilots and flight attendants photos, coins and cds. Aaron actually knew one of the pilots. We were hoping to get his guys upgraded but the plane was completely full. When I got back to my seat, my bottle of water was gone. I thought it had fallen into my seat but couldn’t find it. There was a guy sitting in the seat next to me and I asked him if he had seen it. He held up my bottle of water – which he had drank half of already – and said, “Oh is this yours?” Nice!!! When I said yes, that it WAS, he said, “Oh. Guess this is not a good way to start off the flight, huh. Going to be a long flight!”. I didn’t see the humor but I did go get another bottle of water. Then, the lady sitting next to the “thief” asked how she could get one. I told her she needed a note from her doctor and I swear she believed me. 🙂
Food was “okay”. I had the pasta again. Movies were horrendous…more so than ever. I suffered through one and then slept and slept. Zac was sick for a couple of nights before I left Nashville, so was only getting a couple of hours sleep each night trying to help Lindsey with him and Zoe. Sure do miss them already though.
We landed a few minutes early but it took an hour for the baggage to come out. At least everything arrived! There is a big holiday in Kuwait so we had to exit in a different way than usual. Contee met us and this time we were traveling in Suburbans with a pick up truck for equipment/luggage instead of our usual bus. The USO and VH1 are in Kuwait filming a big special next week. Over 40 people here! Glad that’s not my event.
We arrived at the hotel for my last “stay” here. The hotel closes next month before I return and will be closed for 1-2 years for renovation. It will be beautiful when it returns but I HATE to have to go to another hotel. I got the guys checked in and then went “hotel shopping”. I visited 4 properties – Crowne Plaza, Safir, Movenpik and Missoni. The Missoni is the “sister hotel” of the Radisson but it is just being built and won’t open probably March or April. I need rooms at the end of December. Ran out of time before we went to the Hilton (where we have stayed before. It’s nice but the staff are not overly friendly) and The Regent. Some of the rooms are so TINY at the hotels we visited. I’m so spoiled by the Radisson. Going to try to visit the last two properties when we come back through here on the 26th and then make my decision.
Came back to the hotel and had a quick dinner – by myself. Kurt – my friend here in Kuwait – is leaving tomorrow but he was out at the Camp “out-processing” and I didn’t get to see him. But, he’s going to DC so I should see him more often up there.
Tomorrow we perform at Camp Buehring again (where Filter performed) because VH1 is at Arifjan.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 21ST – CAMP BUEHRING, KUWAIT:
Actually got 5 hours sleep last night – sort of. Was up and down several times doing things that I remembered after I went to bed. Got in a good cardio workout – probably my last one in the Radisson and then had the fantastic breakfast buffet – soy yogurt, fruit and an egg white omelet. Showered and was able to work for about an hour before going to the lobby.
Drive to Buehring is about 1 hour 45 minutes and first thing we had was an office call with the Base Commander. Saw my buddy Shawn who will be leaving here in 3 weeks to go home to Florida. We watched a short film and then the Commander presented everyone with a certificate and coin. The guys went to the stage and Aaron, Bill and I went to the simulator firing range. Aaron was the only one who fired since Bill and I have done it numerous times. Unfortunately Aaron’s gun was defective so he didn’t do as well as expected. After that we went to a simulator for Humvee rollovers. Again, Aaron was the only one who was brave enough to try it. NOT for me! He did great. There were 3 soldiers in the vehicle with him and he was the second one out.
When we got to the stage, Coaxial did not have everything set up as they usually do. They were held up at the gate and had just gotten there a few minutes before us! They quickly got everything up and running. Contee had a jump drive internet connection for me and Donald had a wireless connection for me, so I was able to get on the internet.
Got the bad news that our flight leaves at 0305Z tomorrow. That’s 6:05 am in Kuwait! Lands in Iraq at 6:50 am. Brutal since we won’t get back to the hotel until at least midnight tonight. Bags have to be out at 2:30 am and we have to leave at 4:15 am! That means we stay up all night basically. I asked MWR to please try to find another flight but evidently that’s our only option. So, when we arrive, we go to bed. L Typical for tours over here unfortunately.
Sound check was painless and we walked over to the DFAC afterwards. There was a sign on the table showing a list of the people who now have to PAY for their food and entertainment tours were on the list! So, the celebrities and musicians donate their time to come over here and eat horrible food and they expect them to pay for it? I don’t think so!!!
I had something unidentifiable with a salad. 🙂 Show started right on time although we lost Colonel Cowan for a while just prior to show time. We had another record attendance – several thousand fans! Show was fantastic except for the damn truck horn. They had a problem finding an air compressor earlier today but unfortunately, they found one. I told James I would pay him to forget to load the horn on the pallets tonight.
My friend Wally and his wife Ro came to the show. Wally was Chely Wright’s escort about 10 years ago in Korea and we have stayed in touch since that time. I’ve seen him several times throughout the years – in DC and Egypt and now in Kuwait. He’s a great guy and always so helpful wherever he is. He’s the one who set me up with the guide last year in Egypt.
The autograph line was long and I gave out 296 photos to be autographed. In typical Aaron Tippin style, he and his guys made sure everyone got an autograph and a photo with him (INDIVIDUALLY) and finished up in 1 hour and 15 minutes! Wish all the entertainers I bring over here were that “efficient”. And, trust me, everyone in line received personal attention.
We got back to the hotel at 11 pm and it’s now 11:30 pm. Our bags have to be out at 2:15 am and we leave the hotel at 4:15 am. So brutal and will just kill the guys for the remainder of the tour but nothing I can do about it. L Won’t be able to send out road reports from Iraq until we leave the camp where we performed. Just in case, HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 22ND – KUWAIT TO CAMP ADDER, TALLIL, IRAQ:
Is it really Monday? It’s already “Ground Hog Day” for us over here and it’s just our first day in Iraq! So, we were all in the lobby on time but our Security Detail that has to escort us onto the base overslept. We left the hotel almost 30 minutes later than we anticipated. Also, the bellman assured me last night that he had picked up all the bags outside everyone’s doors. Nope. He missed one!
Drove to the airfield and our C-130 had just landed. It took about a half hour for them to re-fuel and load our 2 pallets. We were the only ones on the flight, so that was nice since all we wanted to do was sleep. There were a couple of females in the crew this time. Aaron sat up on the flight deck and the rest of us tried to sleep on the short 45 minute flight. It was smooth and no surprises. They don’t even do combat landings any more unless they are messing with us. The flight crew was out of Dyess again but not anyone I met in September.
Our escorts were waiting for us – Robin, Ryan, Bruce and Romel. First stop was at the DFAC for breakfast. They had set up a trip to the firing range but everyone just needed to sleep. Aaron, Bill and I are near each other in “wet chus” (that’s a trailer with the ULTIMATE luxury – a bathroom INSIDE your chu!!!!) We have internet service through a cable and SPAWARE for $9.99 a day. Aaron didn’t have a cable for his and even when I plugged in my cable, it said “a cable is not plugged in”! So, MWR came over to help us out. They unplugged my cable and plugged it into the one beside it. It worked and of course, I had already tried that and it DIDN’T. The MWR guy left and 2 minutes after he drove off, I got the message again that a cable was unplugged, so I went to sleep instead.
We went to the DFAC at 1 pm and had a quick, light lunch. A female soldier came up and got Aaron’s autograph since she was going to be working tonight. She asked if I was his wife and I told her “No. Better than that. I get to tell him what to do and he does it without having to be married to him!”. 🙂
We took Aaron and Bill over to the flight line on the other side of the base to perform acoustically for the troops who would not be able to attend the concert tonight. There was supposed to be about 50 troops but word spread and we had well over 100. It was an awesome performance — very up close and intimate and the Colonel later told us it was the best performance he has ever attended in all his deployments.
Aaron signed autographs and took photos with everyone and then signed on of the helicopters as well. He left his bottle of water somewhere and Cowan was teasing him that it was probably inside the hatch where he signed his name. Said the chopper will probably crash and they will be able to trace it back to Aaron. 🙂
Went to the coffee shop and then to sound check. Same venue as when I was here with Filter in September. No one was hungry so I went with Coaxial to the DFAC and got “to go” plates for later. The guys were going to buy a pizza after the show but I did not want to eat that late or something that “unhealthy” so late at night.
The place was packed and Aaron had a great show. And, yes, the air horn worked. They found a compressor. We had been told that we might not be able to blow it because it sounded too much like the warning for “incoming”. And, by the way, the Provost Marshall here is a guy from Mt. Juliet (a few miles from my house) AND he is the County Commissioner in the county where Charlie Daniels lives! Took a photo with him to send to Charlie. Really sweet guy.
Ryann – a friend that I met several years ago and had no idea was still in Tallil surprised me backstage. She is STILL here and I didn’t know it when I was here with Filter! We had about 200 in the autograph line and it moved quickly. One guy asked if I had heard about Aaron being asked to change light bulbs today. Evidently, he came out of his Chu and some soldier saw him and thought he was KRB because he had on civilian clothes. He asked Aaron if he could change the light bulbs in his Chu! Aaron just told him he had no idea what he was talking about and the guy said well I guess you don’t have any then. LOL I would have paid to have seen that exchange. Aaron ….being Aaron…would surely have changed the light bulbs if he had them.
Aaron was given an autographed guitar tonight which was pretty special since it’s usually him giving the guitar to the troops. Problem is, we have no way to get it back to the States. It’s in a soft case and we aren’t allowed to carry it on. So, hopefully, they will ship it to him!
Was back in my room by 10 pm and got my internet working “sporadically”. I had the most AWESOME HOT SHOWER and am going to bed soon…hopefully by 1 am. We have a 7:30 am “call time” for our flight to our next camp tomorrow.
By the way, the troops LOVE country music!!! 🙂
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 2010 – CAMP ADDER, TALLIL AB, IRAQ TO BAGHDAD, IRAQ:
We were ready to go at 7:15 am and our escorts showed up in a passenger van with no truck for the luggage. It’s hard enough for us to climb through the seats with all our backpacks but impossible with large pieces of luggage. I just set mine on the ground and said, “Good luck” and walked off. PLUS, all the luggage was supposed to go to the PAX terminal for palletizing while we got “to go” boxes from the DFAC.
We did go by the DFAC and got “to go boxes” and then went to the terminal. Found out our flight is at least 1 hour late which means we arrived at the PAX terminal at 8 am and won’t depart until 11 am….if it comes in then. IF someone had just checked with the terminal this morning, they would have known that we could have sat down and eaten at the DFAC and still be on time at the PAX terminal. When we walked in, they were checking ID’s at the door and our “escort” walked inside and just left us to deal with it! Obviously, our escorts need a little more training. Aaron had to climb over the seats with the luggage in the van and sit several rows back. He couldn’t close the door to the van and the escort sitting in the front seat just sat there…never moved. Aaron finally climbed back over the seats and managed to lean out and shut the door. When we stopped at the PAX terminal, our escort bailed out and just left us sitting in the van….with no way to open the doors without climbing over the seats.
So here we sit at the PAX terminal….waiting to fly to Baghdad. Hopefully it won’t be more than 1 hour late. Evidently the flight is coming in from Bahrain!
Flight finally arrived and we departed at 11 AM. There were a few other soldiers on the flight and a Navy Admiral on the flight deck. Landed Baghdad and our escorts there were waiting for us. Always good to see “old friends” and Ellen is one of the dearest. We drove to the JVB and got checked in. The staff at the JVB have been here a year already and they return to Louisiana in a couple of weeks. 🙁 They are being replaced by Idaho, but they won’t talk like we do. LOL. They gave me my OWN ROOM – the Taji Suite – what I consider as “mine”.
First meeting was with an Army Colonel. We walked in and Aaron shook his hand and then the Colonel yells like a school girls, “Oh My God”. Evidently he is a HUGE fan of Bill Cowan’s. It was a great visit with him. Aaron signed autographs for the staff and took photos with everyone but I think Cowan took just as many photos. We walked down the street and met with a one Star Army General and signed autographs for the staff there.
Came back to the JVB and then went over to the stage so Aaron could do a little shopping before sound check. Evidently the pallet with all our equipment did not arrive until 3 pm so everything was running behind. Took Aaron to my favorite jewelry shop and they gave him a great deal on a cross and necklace. The shop is closing at the end of February. We walked into the PX and all I needed to buy was a tooth brush. NONE. The shelves were almost bare and they are not re-stocking anything in anticipation of closing down. Very sad but glad we have succeeded to this point.
Aaron did sound check and then we went back to the JVB for a quick dinner and to “rest” (at least they did) for an hour. Show time here is 8 pm instead of 7 pm. Ellen and her co-workers were there and I met the new lady in charge of the “money”. My friend Chase Martin found me. I met Chase in 2004 when I was in country with Chely Wright. Haven’t stayed in regular contact with him so was delighted when he “found” me. Also another SO guy – Matt – was there. Aaron, Bill and I had visited his compound this time last year and now he’s back over here!
The Colonel who is the big fan was there and definitely enjoyed the show. The place was packed all the way back to the barricades. I knew it would be a LONG autograph line and I was right. But, Aaron and my boys set a new record – 276 photos autographed, plus a photo taken with all 276 individually, and several “personal” items signed IN LESS THAN AN HOUR!!!! I was truly impressed. Wish I could take them on the road with me.
So, back at the lodging and it’s a little after 11 pm. Our “call” time is 5:30 am, so not much sleep tonight. Sort of the “norm” on this tour though.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2010 – BAGHDAD, IRAQ TO AL ASAD AB, IRAQ:
Got 4 hours sleep and we were ready to go at 5:15 am. Weren’t supposed to leave until 5:30 am but our escorts didn’t show up until 5:45 am! As Bill and I were starting to get into the back seat of the suburban, the girl driving ours started driving away. Aaron was in the front seat and yelled and stopped her.
Our plane was already on the ground when we arrived so I talked to the flight crew to make sure we had time to go get “to go” boxes at the DFAC. They said we were fine so our escorts dropped us off and they took our bags back to be palletized. When we came out of the DFAC, Bill had one foot inside the suburban and again the girl started driving off. Scared me because this time he had his hands full. We managed to yell loud enough to scare her and she stopped.
Flight crew was from Little Rock but not one that flew me with Filter which was surprising. Aaron sat on the flight deck for the 30 minute flight. Landed at Al Asad and ALL the marines are gone. Navy is now handling things at this base. Stayed in the same lodging where I stayed with Charlie Daniels and Joe Nichols. Nice house with separate bedrooms and showers and bathrooms at the end of the hall. When I got into my room, I realized that my passport was not in my bag. I also remembered that I had never taken it out of my back pocket and put it back in my bag after we left the DFAC in Baghdad. Uhh—ohhh!!! At least I have another passport but the problem was the Kuwait Visa. Numbers wouldn’t match and they’d never let me out of the country with that. We contacted Bagdad to start searching for is as there was a pretty limited area where I had been. Wasn’t sure if I lost it while still in Baghdad or in the air on the flight over!
Everyone went to sleep except Van and I went to the White Elephant to use the internet. At around 11:30 am our time, Ellen in Baghdad emailed to say they found my passport and were trying to find a way to get it to me. Praise God!!!!
First thing on the agenda today is to go to the DFAC for lunch. Then an office call. The office call was fun – both Navy guys. At one point, I was telling them about not being able to buy a toothbrush at the DFAC in Baghdad. One of the soldiers said that he had a box of tooth brushes people had sent him and would give me one before we left. We talked some more and then I gave them cds and coins. The soldier who offered to give me the tooth brush said, “Honey I’m going to give you the best tooth brush you’ve ever had for giving me these”. Bill and Aaron fell off their chairs laughing because Bill tells a really “off-color” joke about a toothbrush in his opening act. We told the soldier to listen closely tonight. J
From there we went to visit the Fire Department. These are contractors but most are former military. They had cooked steaks and burgers for “lunch” for us but no one told us! It smelled heavenly but we were all too full to eat.
They gave Aaron a beautiful plaque and let me sit in the fire truck. I decided to pay him back for that darn truck horn. He was standing in front of the fire truck and I laid on the horn. Pretty cool.
We went to the show site from there and I spent an hour trying to get on the internet. It wouldn’t accept my credit card. Finally I was able to make the guy at the Green Beans counter understand my problem and he pointed outside and said “go pay”. So, off to the building we went and guess what…you had to PAY some guy at a desk in there. Was delighted to have internet service at any cost.
Went back to lodging after sound check and everyone except me got to take a nap. I had to shower and pack my bags. Once again, we all get to sleep in our clothes! Has been that way the entire tour.
The show was great. It was inside the theatre and we had a big crowd. Aaron was disappointed that there were a few empty seats but I told him it’s the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen there. Our Navy escort said the same thing.
Aaron signed about 150 autographs after the show and took photos with everyone. I met the “Seal Team” and they invited us over to their lodging after the show. I knew Aaron would be too tired so I gave them all cds and coins and thanked them for the invite. We’re going to stay in touch and if one of my other groups come through here, we’ll take them up on the offer.
After the show, Aaron was going to midnight chow and I went back to Green Beans to answer emails. Since we didn’t have to leave lodging until 7:30 am the next morning, I planned to work until around 2:30 am and get caught up. Green Beans was closed and everything was locked up except for the area where I was sitting. I was getting a lot done when Van walked in and said our flight time had changed and it was “wheels up” at 7 am. Evidently I had misunderstood the email earlier. I only looked at 1000 and assumed it was 10:00 am. Actually, it was 1000 Zulu which is 7 am!
Van was there because he lost his wallet and thought it might be backstage. He found it but it was outside in the sand! I guess I passed my good luck on to him tonight.
I closed up the computer at around 12:30 am and walked back to lodging. Only made one wrong turn, too, which is a record for me I think. J Van had told me that everyone was going to walk over to the DFAC at 6 am for breakfast but there was a note on my door from Reka saying everyone was walking over at 5 am. So, I set my alarm for 4:30 am and went to bed….in my clothes and make-up AGAIN because we have no bags!
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 25TH – THANKSGIVING AT FOB WARRIOR, KIRKUT, IRAQ:
I got up at 4:30 am anticipating the 5:00 am walk to the DFAC for breakfast. Nope. Given bad intel….they aren’t going until 6:00 am! Walked over with everyone and arrived at about 5:45 am only to find that the DFAC did not open at 5 am today and wouldn’t open until 6 am. So we stood outside in the COLD waiting for it to open.
After breakfast, we had a few minutes at lodging before going to the airfield. Once we arrived, we learned that the flight was about an hour late! When it arrived, we had another aircrew from Dyess and one of the guys remembered me from flying me several times a couple of years ago. Love that! J Aaron and I sat up on the flight deck and as we taxied out, the control tower advised that Kirkut (where we were landing) could not take us and we had to return to the ramp and just “sit” for 30 minutes. Finally got airborne and it was only about a 35 minute flight. OH AND THE MOST IMPORTANT THING – ELBA WAS ON THE FLIGHT WITH MY PASSPORT!!!!
The reason all the flights were delayed is because General Austin (4 Star who took General Odierno’s place) was out visiting the troops today. He was in his helicopter and all air space is closed when he is coming in or going out. Great for the troops but sucked for us.
Our escorts met us and took us to lodging. Lodging is an old building with separate bedrooms. Aaron got his own room and I’m sharing with Elba. Guys are bunked 3 or 4 to a room with Bill in one of the rooms.
We had “free time” until going to the DFAC for Thanksgiving Dinner. First time in YEARS that Aaron, Bill and I have gotten to eat Thanksgiving Dinner. And it was fabulous. So glad the troops had such a fantastic spread and the food tastes so much better than it did when I first started coming over here.
After lunch Aaron, Bill and I went to an office call with the Commander. After that we were supposed to go to the Purple Heart ceremony with General Austin except guess what – he was running late. We went to the Bazaar and then to the Exchange trying to find some last minute gifts for Aaron’s family. No luck. Came back to lodging and Aaron lay down for a few minutes while we waited for the call regarding General Austin’s arrival. Finally got the call and headed back over to the DFAC for the Purple Heart Ceremony. But, it was OVER when we arrived. At least we got to meet the two young men who received the Purple Hearts. And, also met the Ambassador to Iraq and General Austin.
Went to the stage for sound check and then to lodging so Aaron could nap. I took my shower because once again I have to sleep in my clothes. Our bags have to go out at midnight and then we leave at 7:30 am for the DFAC. They wanted us to leave at 6 am and SIT at the terminal until our flight left at 9:50. Of course ALL this gets blamed on the Air Force. I told my guys my “pajamas” look a lot like the clothes I’m wearing the next day. LOL
Show is at the same stage where we took the mortar attack with Filter on their first visit to Iraq. Aaron had a huge crowd and a great final show. Very enthusiastic fans and a perfect Thanksgiving for us. The autograph session was held inside. When we had the mortar attack with Filter, we were outside signing autographs. While Aaron was performing, I walked behind the stage to Green Beans to get a coffee. A guy was in line behind me and started talking to me. He was in civilian clothes so I asked him what he does. He is a Linguist and speaks Kurdish, Arabic, and English. And he lives in NASHVILLE. He said the largest Kurd population outside his homeland is in Nashville. How bizarre is THAT? He is a huge country music fan so I gave him a cd and my card to call me when he gets back to Nashville so I can take him out to the Opry.
The autograph line was long – signed about 200 autographs and he finished it in less than an hour. We were driving by to look at a wall that they have built with all 4,000+ names of those killed in action in Iraq displayed. While we were sitting there, the loud speakers came on and I thought it was “incoming”. Wasn’t incoming but warning that there was intel that something might happen. (They like to “flex” on holidays!). So, we had to go to lodging immediately because our house is a “safe” place.
Got changed and my bags into the hallway. I was worried that I would snore and keep my roomie awake because I’m so tired. Plus she stepped off our porch tonight and twisted her ankle. Looks just like mine did when I did the same thing 3 years ago. It is black and blue and very swollen. Really feel sorry for her. I’m sitting here with all the lights on and typing this road report and she is peeling the wallpaper off the walls with her snores! LOL
I am so, so blessed to be able to spend this time with our troops deployed overseas. I have such mixed emotions about our troops coming out of here. I’m so proud that we succeeded and very excited to watch how Iraq will evolve over the next few years. But, I’m also sad that this “era” of my life is coming to a close. I know that I will go to other countries (probably Afghanistan and Korea a lot) but considering that I’ve been coming here since 2003 on 32 tours, it’s sad to think I may never see the “independent, thriving Iraq”. For the families of those who lost loved ones, please know that those wonderful men and women would be so very proud of what they accomplished here. I spent a long time talking to an air traffic controller tonight and got a lot more insight into just how successful we were.
Happy Thanksgiving to all my wonderful friends and family. You enrich my life and your support of my efforts is invaluable.
BLACK FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 26TH – KIRKUK AB, IRAQ TO KUWAIT and SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 27TH – KUWAIT TO NASHVILLE:
So, didn’t get a lot of sleep last night between the snoring and then at 4:15 am the band members in the room across from me woke up. They were out in the hallway using the microwave and talking. Even though they were talking softly, the house is marble and concrete so every little noise is magnified.
Left lodging to go to the DFAC to grab “to-go” boxes again and sit at the passenger terminal. Our flight landed early and we were able to depart early. Flight crew is out of Dyess (Abilene, Texas) again and were so sweet. They let Aaron and I sit on the flight deck and then about 20 minutes into the flight, I came down and asked the guys if they wanted to rotate up there. Only one of them went up and only for about 5 minutes! They were all just too tired, I think. It was only an hour and 45 minute flight so we landed at 11 am and were back at the Radisson by 12 noon I had to immediately depart to “hotel shop” again. Went to the Marriott (too “formal”), the Regency (beautiful but Islamic and very strict with what women can and cannot do), the Holiday Inn (4 star and really nice but in an area where it would be hard to control the groups because it is in the middle of town), and then back to the Hilton where I had stayed a few times but the staff wasn’t nice. The Hilton was the winner of all the hotels I visited (8 total) and I told them the problem with my previous visits. They were apologetic and said the hotel is under new management – Egyptian. If they can match the prices at the Radisson, then that’s where we will go.
Contee was such a sweetheart to drive me around to all the hotels. I’m sure he was bored out of his mind. J But now he’ll be able to recommend hotels to the other groups that bring entertainment into the area.
Made it back to the hotel in time to shower and go to dinner with the guys. I invited my friend Wally and his wife to have dinner with us since it would be the only time I had to see him this trip. Hopefully I’ll have more time for him next visit.
Had to re-pack all my luggage and supply bags which was NOT an easy task. Usually I leave one duffle with supplies at the hotel but since the Radisson is closing, can’t do it this time. L We took pictures with the staff and I hugged everyone good-bye. Really, really hate that they are closing.
We left for the airport at 9:30 pm and they had changed the check-in counter for United. Security was much more intense this time. Lots more questions to answer. I got checked in and then saw Lucky pointing at me and he was still waiting in line. He forgot that he had to check 2 bags and security was hassling him about what was in the case. It was electronics and ear monitors for the show. Finally got that sorted out and everyone checked in.
Sitting in the Lounge (different one than before – probably because of the merger with Continental)l waiting to board the flight! United upgraded me because of my Global Status. I had the names of the pilots and crew and worked them to get Aaron and Bill upgraded because there was lots of seats left in first class…no luck. L At least there was plenty of space for everyone. I didn’t eat anything but went to sleep immediately. Every time I woke up, Aaron was sitting up studying the manual for the new airplane he purchased a few weeks ago. Bill slept though. I didn’t eat any dinner on the flight because of the huge meal we had at the Radisson. The flight attendants tried to force feed me every time I woke up. I was able to answer some emails off line and work on some other projects the last few hours before we landed. Very little turbulence throughout the flight.
We landed on time in DC and I used my Global Entry pass to skip Immigration lines. Love that thing – when it works. More and more airports are now offering this. All our luggage and equipment arrived and we breezed through Customs. Bill Cowan had to pick up his luggage and fly to Richmond so he could drive back to DC! So stupid but the cost of the roundtrip DC flight was unrealistic.
I worked on email until our flight to Nashville was called. We departed on time and landed a few minutes early. My “babies” were waiting for me at baggage claim. All our luggage arrived and I’m happy to be home – even if it is only for 3 days before leaving for Switzerland. It was another fantastic visit with our troops. From the size of the audiences we had, you’d never know there are so many fewer troops deployed. Of course, now all eyes are on what is happening in South Korea.