PHOTOS (Courtesy of Mark Allen, Photographer)
PHOTOS 2 (Courtesy of Mark Allen, Photographer)
Tuesday, March 1st and Wednesday, March 2nd 2016 – Nashville to Atsugi Naval Air Station, Japan:
Left today to meet Chase Rice for 4 shows for the troops in Japan. Slept 1 ½ hours, up at 2:30 am and driving to the airport by 3:30 am. I was almost there when I realized I had left my cell phone at home. Thankfully, I’m only about a 10 minute drive from the airport (whole reason I live where I do!) so turned around and went back to retrieve it. Still had plenty of time to check in and “relax” before boarding. I wear a watch with a “dual face” so I can always tell what time it is at home and the time where I am in this world. One of the batteries had died. There’s nowhere to purchase another one and Delta no longer offers “duty free” purchases on board. I have made the mistake of not traveling overseas since I returned from Iraq in January. Usually, I just keep one bag “packed” and ready to go with most of the things I need overseas. Being at home for 2 months has spoiled me. I have little “baggies” of local currency from lots of different countries and I just pull these and take them with me each trip. Totally forgot my bag of Yen for this trip, so I had to go bet money changed in Atlanta.
Flight to Atlanta was on time and full. I walked around for a few minutes double-checking that I was out of luck on a watch battery and confirmed I was. Had a couple of hours in the Lounge to work before we had to board. We boarded on time and I was hoping that we would leave on time as I have to meet Chase’s group at Narita Tokyo for the drive to Atsugi Naval Air Station. The pilot came on an announced that there was a problem with the baggage scanning system and we would be leaving about 40 minutes late. Not good. However, he came back on a few minutes later and said it would probably only be around 15 minutes late departing. Sure hoping it works out and they don’t have to wait for me.
I had planned to work most of the 11+ hour flight but was truly depressed to learn that this is one of the only aircraft in the entire Delta fleet that isn’t equipped for Wifi. I am so spoiled by being able to work on these long flights. Figured I’d better sleep as much as I could since I’ll be up all night answering the hundreds of emails that came during the flight. I watched the movie “The Martian” (which was recommended by my daughter) and then slept for about 3 hours. Had some fruit and coffee when I woke up and then did as much work as possible without WiFi – which isn’t much. L Watched another movie – forgot the name of it but it was about a chef and was good.
Chase will perform 3 shows on mainland Japan (Atsugi Naval Station, Yokota Air Base, Yokosuka Naval Air Station) and then on to Camp Hansen in Japan. I’ve worked with all these base mainland bases as recently as last June with Kristian Bush and Okinawa both then and in December with Aaron Tippin. They are all great people to work with and Frank – our AFE rep for the Pacific and based in Honolulu — is the BEST! The Lt. General (3 Stars!) at Yokota is a friend of mine. I met him years and years ago in Iraq, then in Kunsan Korea, and most recently in DC at another 3 Star General’s retirement. Really looking forward to seeing him and his wife again.
We landed early and my bag was one of the first ones out. I easily found the shuttle bus to Terminal 2 where I was supposed to meet Eddie (Chase’s manager) who flew in from Texas and Chase’s group who were flying in from Honolulu. I landed so early, I even beat Eddie there. Hooked up with Paul (Our MRW Rep who is fantastic) and Eddie and we waited for the group. They landed and soon thereafter, Eddie started getting text messages from Shawn (tour manager) saying they were being “detained” by Customs. Actually, they were being held in a “room” by Immigration. Evidently, the first guy going through the line didn’t have his military orders out and ready to show. When Shawn took control and showed the orders, it should have been a simple matter of waving everyone through. But this is Japan and they are even more “anal” than I am if you can believe it. They were detained for an hour while the checked each passport against the orders and, of course, everything had to go to “committee” before they were released.
They finally got their “release” and picked up the luggage/equipment and escaped. I was so frustrated because they wouldn’t let me or Paul go inside to try and assist. I should have flown to Hawaii, met them there, and flown over with them.
Paul had a nice bus waiting for us but not the big one I was expecting. Evidently, the big one blew the motor in a snow storm and was going to cost more to replace than to purchase a new one. But, thankfully, he had a truck with him for the luggage/gear. Chase and the guys have been on a 3 week tour of the USA and they have 47 pieces of luggage/equipment with them.
It took about an hour and a half to drive to the Atsugi Naval Air Station and our first stop was a late night “bar” on the base for food. Sadly, their Golf Club caught on fire a couple of days ago and that was supposed to be where we were eating all our meals! I remember it from last visit and they had great food there.
We all got “to go” meals and headed to lodging. Lots of young sailors came up to Chase while we were waiting for the food. They took photos with him and said they would be at the show. I swear they all look like they are 12 years old.
Really nice rooms but all are on 2nd floor and no elevators. Some nice Navy “chief” carried mine up for me. His back will never be the same again. But, I did give him a “challenge coin”. J
Had a quick meeting with Shawn and Adam regarding the next few days. Then Paul came by and dropped off the autograph sheets. I’ve been answering the hundreds of emails for hours and now I’m going to bed! Will get up early and answer the ones that come in overnight.
THURSDAY, MARCH 3rd – FIRST SHOW IN JAPAN AT ATSUGI NAVAL BASE:
In bed at 12:30 am and up at 5:30 am to answer emails that came in overnight. Not too bad….only 47 that required a response.
I walked down to McDonald’s to try and get scrambled eggs and Chase and Shawn were there. I ordered the eggs and the little girl taking the order had a hard time understanding what I wanted. After a few minutes, she handed me a bag. It had a biscuit in it! LOL. That went well. Eventually 4 other people came out of the back and finally I got my scrambled eggs.
We left at 10:20 am to visit the “War Lords” – the helicopters on the base. We visited there with Kristian Bush and there were a couple of guys that I met there last time. Chase and the boys loved the visit. Boys….anything they can fly, drive, shoot or blow up. They were like kids in a candy shop and it was hard to drag them away.
Next was lunch – at Trilogy again since the kitchen at the Golf Club burned down last week and it’s the only other option. Sound check was after lunch and we are using Yoshi and Sound Zaurus again. They are great and we’ll have them for the entire tour on mainland Japan. Sound check finished much earlier than we anticipated and everyone had a few minutes to “rest” before the show which was scheduled to begin at 4:30 pm.
I walked over at 4 pm and Paul said they wan’t to hold the beginning of the concert until 5:00 pm to give people time to go home and change out of their work clothes and come to the show. We held it and Paul was right. There were about 300 people there when we started. That number quickly went to 500 while Chase rocked the stage! It was a fantastic show and a very long autograph line with lots and lots of children.
After the Meet and Greet, a few guys ventured into the town right outside the gate and the rest of us went back to Trilogy – the only other place to eat on base. Had a quick dinner and then came back to my room to work, work, work. When the sun went down tonight, it turned really cold. Hope it’s warm again tomorrow when we drive to Yokota!
FRIDAY, MARCH 4TH – ATSUGI NAVAL BASE TO YOKOTA AIR BASE, JAPAN:
Went to bed EARLY for me – little after 11 pm – and slept until 5 am when I had to get up and start answering all the emails that came in overnight. Even got in a short “workout” this morning before meeting the group downstairs for a 9 am departure. They were all laughing about their “adventures” on the town last night. Apparently a couple of the guys poured their soy sauce in ashtrays, thinking they were bowls for the sauce. Then I was talking to one of the other guys who shall remain nameless, and he washed his hands in the urinal! You can take the boys out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boys.
It was about an hour and a half bus ride from Atsugi to Yokota and the first stop was to get our “base pass”. The officer there informed us that the passports had been stamped with a SOFA stamp and indicated everyone except me and Eddie were “active duty personnel”. So, after they detained the group at the Narita Airport when they arrived, they managed to totally screw up their entry stamps. My fear is there will be a problem when they try to leave Japan for Australia.
After securing our passes, we went to Kanto Lodge to check in. This is a truly beautiful facility and I have a suite with a full size washer and dryer in it. I remember staying here in June with Kristian.
Lunch was next at the DFAC and the food was amazing. Air Force Bases really put money into “quality of life” for their men and women. After lunch, the crew went to the venue to load in and I went with Chase to AFN Radio. He had a really great interview there. The lady interviewing him had definitely done her homework.
I went to sound check after the interview and Chase decided not to do a sound check. The production company was running behind with the set up because they had a problem getting on base this morning. I stayed long enough to take care of the things I needed to clear up and then got a ride back to lodging. We had about an hour before we had to go to the venue for dinner. Dinner was prime rib, chicken cordon blue and pasta with all the trimmings. After dinner, General Dolan and his wife and his aide Major Prentiss and his wife came by to say hello to us. I’ve known him since the early 2000’s in Iraq and saw him again in Korea, Afghanistan and DC. He’s a great man and leader and now has his 3rd Star. He gave the guys a great talk on what the military does in this area. Everyone was very appreciative that he took time to come to talk with us.
The Wing Commander – Colonel Doug DeLamater and his family also came by to say “hello” and Colonel Landis also came by with some local Japanese VIP’s who are big supporters of our efforts in Japan. As we were leaving to go downstairs for the show, I mentioned to the General’s Aide what had happened with the entry visas into Japan. He suggested we go to Immigration here on the base to try and get the passports fixed while we were here. Otherwise, the group will have a problem when they depart Japan to Australia.
The show started on time and the official attendance was 374. It was another fantastic show with the audience singing along and dancing to every song. The “meet and greet” was supposed to be 50 contest winners but turned out to be more like 100. Evidently, when one person won, they were allowed to bring one guest. Instead they brought entire families with them so it took longer than anticipated. But that was fine because that’s why we are here.
While we were doing the autograph session, Rick went to Immigration to see what he could do about the Passport stamps. They were closed but someone called when he got back. We had to collect all the passports and have someone take them over again after the show to see what the “ruling” was. Still waiting for them to bring back to us.
Tomorrow we drive to Yokosuka for our 3rd performance. Going to bed soon so I can get up early to answer emails.
SATURDAY, MARCH 5TH – YOKOTA AIR BASE TO YOKOSUKA NAVAL AIR STATION:
Almost got 4 hours of sleep last night. Had to keep getting up to answer text messages, etc. No time to work out this morning, just shower and answer lots of overnight emails. Met the guys in the lobby for a 9 am departure to Yokosuka. Evidently, they all had a great time at the Wing Commander’s house last night. He fed them pancakes and beverages. Probably a blessing I couldn’t go because I would not have been able to resist pancakes at midnight. LOL
Shawn said “supposedly” the immigration problem is fixed but we aren’t 100% sure that it is. Going to get to the airport 3 hours prior to departure when we leave Okinawa on the 8th.
Jen – our MWR rep – met us with the bus and truck at exactly 9 am. Going to be another beautiful day but very busy. Took about 1 ½ hours to drive to Yokosuka. Our rooms weren’t ready so we went to Chili’s for lunch. Big surprise – Mike (Jen’s Dad) joined us for lunch. He was the Fleet Activities Commander in Chinhae, Korea when I was there with the wrestlers last August. He took such great care of us during a very “tense” time after North Korea had launched an attack. He has since retired but is working in this area now. We “pre-ordered” our dinner for tonight and will grab it and rush downtown Tokyo immediately after the show.
Got everyone checked in at lodging and then went over for sound check. The show is in the parking lot of the bowling center again as it was for Kristian Bush. Chase rode over with us as the Exchange is across the street and he wanted to shop a little. When we got off the bus, he spotted a group of young men and women grilling out and guitars were visible. He went by and talked to them and one of the guys sang one of Chase’s songs for him. Bet that was the highlight of these guys and girls deployment.
I walked back from sound check after I had checked out everything. Jen and Gregg have everything under control as usual. We leave for a tour of the USS Ronald Reagan at 3 pm and everyone is excited about that!
The tour was fantastic. There were several young female sailors waiting for Chase when we boarded and they were so excited (and embarrassed) to see him. So cute to watch them taking photos with him. We only had one hour to spend there but were able to go on the flight deck and Navigation Bridge and our Navy escorts were excellent about packing in a lot of information in that short period of time.
Rushed back to lodging and had to leave 40 minutes later for the show site. There was a huge crowd and people continued to come in throughout the show. MWR is estimating between 700-750 people and were very pleased with the turnout. Chase is so good about audience involvement and brought several people up on stage during the show – including the guy who had the guitar and sang his song at the little “cookout” earlier this afternoon. We had to stop the show again at 5:40 pm for “Colors” (as we did in Atsugi) but we waited and waited and waited and never heard the music. The flag was still raised on a hill in the distance. Finally the Wing Commander from Yokota who had arrived with the mini-bus to take us to Tokyo tonight told Chase to “play”! So he did and the minute he kicked off, the flag started lowering. Only no one was playing the music! We finally learned that this had happened BEFORE 5:40 pm and no one heard it. At least our “intention” was honorable.
Chase had a great “Meet and Greet” after the show and it ran so smoothly. Jen and Gregg do a great job with visiting entertainers here and it’s always a pleasure to work with them.
The Colonel had commandeered a 19 passenger Mini-bus and we took every seat. He brought along some of his “co-workers” as well who had never been to the Robot Restaurant. Jen had picked up our pre-ordered meals from Chili’s so we ate those en route. The drive into Tokyo was “lively” and much quicker than anticipated. In talking to Doug (Wing commander), we figured out that we had met a few years ago when he was deployed to Ali Al Salem in Kuwait. Darryl Worley was one of the entertainers I took there who met him. We actually arrived too early to pick up our tickets. We assigned a “pick up point” for the bus and Chase, Cody, Eddie and I went with the Colonel and his 3 friends to the Robot Restaurant Show. The rest of the boys went “exploring” in the area.
I was so disappointed by the “pre-show”. Last June, it was almost better than the actual show! I guess the musicians were “tired” by 9 pm after having done 2 previous shows. But the “gawdy décor” more than made up for the lack of entertainment value. We headed downstairs and I was not disappointed in the show. I describe it as “Madri Gras on Steroids”. The huge floats, dancers, pyrotechnics, lasers – everything is right in front of your face. The room is a rectangle with an open floor space between rows of tiered theatre style seating, which are only 3 rows deep. The floor space if probably around 20 feet wide and they use every inch of that space. The floats come in from either end and I have no idea where they “store” all those huge monstrosities when not on the floor. Just “google” “Robot Restaurant Tokyo” to see tons of videos about this site. As I said, my first visit was with Kristian Bush and his group in June last year. Even having seen the show before, it was still just as spectacular. My favorite part was when a huge panda came riding out on a “cow” and defeated the dragons and bad guys. LOL. Chase kept saying it was one of the best nights of his life.
The show ran a little longer than I anticipated but the bus waited for us, of course, since we have the Wing Commander with us. The other guys were already there waiting for us and there were no real “casualties”. They all said they had a great time, too. We made a quick stop in Shibuya for the guys to see the “world’s busiest intersection”. It was busy with people walking from about 5 or six different streets and converging in the middle but definitely not as busy as on a week day. We had a little over an hour ride back to the base and arrived a little after 2 am. All our escorts from Yokota still had another 1 ½ to 2 hour drive back to their base. Can’t thank them enough for making this possible for Chase and his guys.
I was in bed by 2:30 am because the greatest blessing of all….no emails to answer since it was Saturday morning in Nashville.
SUNDAY, MARCH 6TH – YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE TO CAMP FOSTER AND CAMP HANSEN, JAPAN:
It means getting one less hour of sleep but worth it to get in a great jog in perfect weather. Lots of joggers on this base and I can see why! Walked over to the Officer’s Club for the “brunch” which was totally wasted on me because of my diet. But, it was the closest place and I was getting short on time.
I can’t say enough good things about how well Jen and Gregg (our MWR reps) had everything organized for us. And a special, special “thank you” to Colonel Doug DeLamater from Yokoto Air Base for making this visit so special for Chase and the guys.
We departed at 11 am for the 1 hour drive to Haneda Airport and will be flying to Okinawa. It actually took less than an hour and I’ve never in all my years of coming to Japan, had a check-in this “easy”. And, the biggest surprise was that JAL did not charge any excess. We had 49 checked pieces between 15 people and several pieces were overweight. Amazing.
Had LOTS of time – like 2 ½ hours – before we needed to go to the gate. We walked around and shopped and then had lunch. Flight was delayed by 15 minutes. It was a really nice aircraft and had the video monitor that showed take-off and landing. It was an extremely turbulent flight the entire trip. Japanese airlines never seem to try and get a different altitude to avoid turbulence…..EVER! No peanuts, pretzels, NOTHING but a limited choice of beverages even in business class.
We landed and there weren’t enough carts for all the checked pieces so several of the guys went in search of more. Only, they accidentally went OUT of baggage claim and couldn’t come back inside. The guys found the carts and got everything out to the bus. Rebecca met us and had a large tour bus. I did not think everything would fit in the bus bays but these guys are pros at packing and got everything underneath.
It was less than an hour drive to the base. We got checked in and once again we are not in the main building. We are in the building where the WiFi doesn’t work! So inconvenient to have to sit in the lobby. I found a sign in the room that said the front desk could give me a LAN line so I hiked over to get one. I also have my own WiFi hotspot with me but not sure how well it will work on this base.
Met the guys at Macaroni Grill for dinner and it was “okay” (translates as not great). One of the guy’s food was cold when they brought it out. He sent it back but they still brought him cold food even after returning it to the kitchen.
This is also the lodging where the heat/air can’t be controlled. Once again, the air is blowing full blast right over my bed. I’ll have to tape a towel or something over it or get sick again. I’m going to ask if we can stay on Kadena next time, I think!
Been working for hours and going to bed now at 1 am. Last show tomorrow!
MONDAY, MARCH 7TH – LAST SHOW IN JAPAN – CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA:
Got 5 hours of sleep and a 3 mile jog in before showering and meeting Chase to go to AFN. He had another great interview there. The weather is beautiful today so we’re hoping there will be a huge crowd at the show. This part of Japan “loves” country music and the concert is outdoor, so the pretty weather should help attendance. Only negative is this base has never had a concert on a Monday night. Their shows have always been on weekends.
The band/crew had gone over to the show site at the same time we went to AFN. Hoping everything is okay over there and since we haven’t heard otherwise, I’m assuming it is.
We went to the Ocean Breeze for lunch and they had a great buffet lunch with several “unidentifiable items” that turned out to be really good. My favorite was the spinach and calamari. Chase had decided not to do a sound check, so Rebecca dropped us off at the Base Exchange. I was able to get some Pokeman stuffed animals that the Z’s want. Walked back to lodging and had about 30 minutes before leaving for the performance. It was about a 45 minute drive and we stopped at the Base Exchange which was right beside the venue. Met up with the band/crew and had dinner at The Palms. The Colonel who had invited us to his house for dinner while we were in Okinawa came by to meet Chase just as we were finishing dinner. He had his wife and family with him and they are all huge country music fans. We did the “Meet and Greet” with the 50 winners in the same room where we had dinner. Then it was off to the show site.
The crowd was huge – approximately 2,500 people! Never expected that many on a Monday night. Lots of people were outside the show fence cooking out and drinking. No one is allowed to bring coolers inside as they have beverages for sale at the show. The show was the best ever….the perfect way to “end” the tour. Several of the musicians were “body surfing” in the crowd at the end of the show and Chase joined them. Normally, I would have had a heart attack but my shows are finished so no reason for me to worry about him. J I had walked over and ordered lots of pizzas for after the show. Picked them up just as the show ended and put them on the bus for “after show food”. There were a lot of people standing outside the fencing after the show and Chase when over and shook hands, signed autographs, and took photos with everyone.
This base does an excellent job of hosting entertainment and it’s always a pleasure to tour here. Going to try to get in bed at a decent hour and get up at an indecent hour to answer all the emails!
We leave at 8:45 am for the airport.
TUESDAY, MARCH 8TH – OKINAWA TO NASHVILLE:
Got up really early to answer emails and be ready for the 8:45 am departure. No time to exercise this morning when I really needed it before the long flight.
Rebecca met us with the big bus and we departed at 9 am for the Naha airport. I had to check in with ANA for the flight to Narita and everyone else was checking in with Qantas (JetStar actually) for their flight to Narita. I got my bag checked and then walked over to the Qantas counter to see if everything was going smoothly. All the guys were in a small area “waiting” for the check in counter to open. Evidently, Qantas does not allow anyone to check in until 2 hours prior to flight time! We had purposely planned to arrive about 3 hours prior to flight time just in case there were any problems with Immigration. Since my flight was going to be boarding, I wasn’t able to stay there with them while they checked in.
My 2 ½ hour flight to Tokyo departed on time. When I landed in Tokyo, I had a text message from Shawn saying they were charged $6,000 U.S. for excess. I started trying to figure out “why” but since it was the middle of the night in Nashville, was only able to “see” what was on the Qantas website. What I found there indicated that they should not have been charged that amount. I was able to work in the Delta Lounge for about an hour and then had to board the flight to Atlanta. Thankfully, this Delta aircraft has WiFi! I just hope Chase and his guys don’t have a problem with Immigration. They won’t have to go through Immigration until they are departing Tokyo. Did not hear anything before I departed so hoping for the best.
There wasn’t a movie on the flight that was worth watching, so I worked, ate and slept. It was an extremely turbulent flight several times. The last 2 hours of the flight was pretty much non-stop turbulence, which I HATE!
Landed on time in Atlanta and I breezed through the Global Entry line. Then I waited for my suitcase which came out last, of course, because it was tagged “Priority”! Flight to Nashville was on time and non-eventful. Landed on time and Lindsey, Zac and Zoe came to pick me up. Happy to be home for a few days. Lindsey is covering the Frankie Ballard show for Mildenhall Air Base on March 12th for me and I get to take care of the Z’s.
This was such a great tour with Chase Rice. I’m always apprehensive when working with the artist and their entourage the first time. I have to say that across the board – Chase and all his guys were so incredibly nice and professional. It was a pleasure to tour with them and we had unbelievably fantastic shows for the troops. They brought a lot of smiles and happiness to everyone they met and entertained. He’s up for doing more tours for the troops as well. Just have to find “time” in his busy schedule!
Frank and all the local MWR reps were wonderful to work with again and made sure everything ran smoothly. We had great audiences, too, and lots of Chase Rice fans singing the words to all the songs.