Here we go again! Early flight out of Nashville leaving at 5:48am. Ron Lavella, Paul Sanders, and myself head to Houston where we meet up with Mike Smith for our trip to Tokyo. We arrive with no problems and we meet up with the rest of the guys, Matt Scannell, Blake Williams, and Matt Robbins. After a much welcomed layover we start the last leg of our journey for the day to Singapore. We arrive with no issues and all of our gear and are transported to the Parkroyal hotel and arrive around 3:00am. After 31 hours of traveling, a shower and a bed are heaven on earth. We all get some rest and we meet up with Matt Scannell’s friend Keith Tan who treats us to some awesome chicken and rice. We get in a little sight seeing before we head back to the hotel. We have dinner and try to get more sleep before we leave for Diego Garcia tomorrow around 1:00pm. Thank god no early lobby call!
Everyone got some off and on sleep last night and we get checked out around 1:00pm to go to our flight leaving from Playa Lebar AB. This year we arrive in plenty of time for our flight. Last year we flew on a semi-commercial plane, this year we will be traveling by C17. This is kind of cool because some of the guys have never flown on a military transport. We are loaded down with supplies and passengers. For those of you who do not know about Diego Garcia, it’s in the middle of the Indian Ocean. There’s only one flight a week into and off of the island, so logistics can be difficult, hence the plane being loaded up. After a 5 hour flight we arrive and are met by the MWR staff, Reino Rumeral, Carlos Canaless, and our driver/production coordinator Teddy Tansiongco. They transport us to our rooms and we still have a couple of hours to get some food and necessities from the ship store before it closes. Everyone is very excited to finally be here.
Today is our first day on Diego. Teddy picks us up at 8:45am to go to the commanders call where we meet with Commanding Officer Craig Snyder and his staff. CO Snyder is an extremely nice guy and a badass. He’s a former Top Gun instructor. After a great conversation with him he passes us of to the British Commander Lees. Another extremely nice guy who informs us of all the other operations that take place on Diego. Because of the unique situation here, the island not only serves as a Naval Support Facility, but also has unique environmental aspects. There are studies being done on the shark population here because it is the only 13 mile stretch of ocean in the world where sharks are 100% protected. It is estimated that more than 2500 sharks live in the lagoon alone. Makes you wonder about getting the water for some snorkeling.
After our meetings the MWR guys set us all up with bicycles for our stay here. This is great, it has been a long time since I’ve ridden a bike, very enjoyable. I think I’m going to have to get a bike when I get back home. We then take a short bike ride to the AFN radio station where the band does a radio interview, then we have the rest of the day off to enjoy our tropical paradise. After lunch we are all escorted to the Coral Sands golf course where we meet up with Reino for a round of golf. Some of the guys have never played before, but actually did quite well. After our “interesting” round of golf we have the rest of the evening to rest up, still not quite adjusted to all the time changes. Looking forward to our first show tomorrow night.
We pretty much have the day off since the show does not start until 11:00pm. Blake and Mike meet up with Teddy to get set up for sound check at 2:00pm. Sound check goes good and we get some food and rest before the show tonight.
We are performing in the Island Room for the “Bling in the new year party”. The MWR staff have done an outstanding job with the decorations for the party. The show goes great and the band counts down the new year. Everyone is having a great time and I can’t think of a better way to start off a new year. After all the proceedings are done for the evening we have some celebratory drinks and then off to bed. The MWR guys have some deep sea fishing set up for us tomorrow, really looking forward to that because the weather washed us out last year.
So today we have the morning off, which for me is awesome because the Alabama Michigan State game comes on at 7:00am. After watching Bama destroy the Spartans we all have some breakfast and are ready for some deep sea fishing fun. Teddy has reserved 2 boats so that we can all go and are also joined by CO Snyder and Levern Ocampo with the MWR. I cannot express how cool it is for the CO to join us, again he is an outstanding individual. We split up into two groups and head out of the lagoon to the open ocean. Within 30 minutes our boat has 2 fish on the lines. Paul and Blake jump on the reels and start cranking them in, this proves to be quite intense. After some serious muscle Paul lands the first Wahoo and Blake is fighting hard. With Blake’s fish about 20 yards behind the boat, all of a sudden 2 sharks hit his fish taking the whole back half of the fish in one bite and another big bite out of its side. After paying our fee to fish to the sharks, we are set up to have a great day of fishing, for our boat at least. We proceed to pull in another 6 Wahoo in the 3 hours we’re on the water. The captain said we are very lucky today, I think it has to do with paying our toll to the sharks. Once we arrive back at the marina and meet up with the other boat, who only caught 2, we get some great group pictures with our bounty of 9 1/2 Wahoo. We turn our fish over to the guys at the marina who get them cleaned up and ready to cook. One Wahoo will feed 7-8 people so the excess is turned over to the captains and crews of our two boats. We fed a lot of people today.
So for dinner tonight we are joined by CO Snyder, CMC Dominoes, Carlos, Levern, and Teddy at the Seamens Club who has prepared our fish several different ways. We have baked, fried, sweet and sour, and cajun with fries and sweet tea. I am not a seafood eater, however the food is delicious, not fishy at all. I guess it makes a difference when it comes from the ocean just an hour before. Again it was DELICIUOS!!
With our bellys full Blake, Mike, Matt Robbins, and myself decide to take a late night bike ride down to a secluded part of the beach. After a bike ride through the jungle we find the water. The amount of stars are incredible. It’s so dark and clear we are actually able to see a satellite pass overhead along with a few shooting stars, awesomeness! On the way back Matt ended up getting stung by what the locals call a yellow jacket, not the US version mind you. Matt said it felt like a terra dactyl landed on his neck. By the time we got back to our rooms it had swelled up pretty big and he informed me he has had allergic reactions in the past. I gave him some antihistamine and we headed over to the med center. I ended up at the BIOT police station by accident and was pointed in the right direction by a beautiful blonde officer with a great British accent. Oh man I love that accent. Once we reached the med center the doors were locked and could not figure out how to get in. So I walked back to the police station and she called over to get us in. When she came back she said the guy was extremely rude to her on the phone and she was not pleased about it. By the time I walked back to the med center, less than a hundred yards away mind you. They had already sent Matt back out the door. They told him that they would have just given him some Benadryl as well and told him to go back to his room and put a warm compress on it. This is after he had informed them he’s had reactions in the past. Now I was not pleased with the situation and my Judy Seale almost came out (sorry mom, love you). By now it’s almost midnight and his swelling had gone down and we all turned in.
We all have the morning off until sound check at noon. I check on Matt’s neck and it looks a lot better. I still reported the whole incident to Reino and he said the minute he told them he had reactions in the past, they should have called a doctor in to look at him. Well no ****! The British officer also reported the guy being rude to her as well. I’m willing to bet he didn’t have a very good day today.
After sound check we had the rest of the day off until show time at 6:00pm. We are playing at the Fleet Rec Center which is an outdoor stage. We didn’t get to play there last year due to weather. The weather today has been beautiful all day so things look good. Wrong. Literally as the band is about to walk on stage at 6 it starts to rain. We delay the show for about 45 minutes and the rain stops. So we kick it off again and start the show. The show is going great and about an hour in the wind picks up and the bottom falls out again. The production guys scramble to get everything covered and the band runs for cover. We move everyone across the street to Jakes place, which is a little bar with a covered pavilion. We do the meet and greet there where a crowd of very excited and very soaked people are waiting. The meet and greet goes great and we all head back to our rooms to get some rest.
We have the whole day off today but it is still raining. We all are going out to the old coconut plantation which is about an hour drive all the way around on the other side of the island. About two thirds of the trip is paved roads, with the last third gravel with a lot of potholes. With all the rain it makes it difficult to see the deep holes, but Teddy does a great job in avoiding the major ones. We finally make it to the end of the road past the plantation to the recreation area and we get a little break in the rain. However this does not last very long and very heavy rain moves back in, so we decided to make our way back, skipping the plantation tour. Before we leave Brit Commander Lees swings by to say hello. He has been attending mass at the old church today. He informs us this is the first time they have held services there in about two years and they had about 160 people there even with the heavy rain. They were supposed to have a picnic after services, but they too have decided to make their way back. As the heavy rain keeps coming down the road is now flooded. In some places deep enough to reach the bottom of the doors of the school buses ahead of us, which made it a slow ride back. The rain continued all day and all evening so everyone just kind of found their own way to pass the day and hope for better weather tomorrow.
Today the rain has stopped and is beautiful outside and is our last show day on Diego. We will be back at the island room indoors with no chance of rain. We have nothing planned during the day other than sound check, which has no problems. As soon as sound check is over Teddy informs me I need to go to the MWR office and speak with Reino about our flight. Reino said our flight back to Singapore has been scrubbed and that we can leave a day early or a day late. We have no choice but to leave a day early as not to jeopardize our show in Singapore. We are very lucky because sometimes there is not another flight for until a week later. We contact Helen Lee back in Singapore to have her change our check in date at the hotel so that we have rooms waiting on us when we arrive early on the 6th. With our new flight confirmed we have lunch and chill until show time.
The show and the meet and greet goes great and we all go back to our rooms to rest. We have an early lobby call at 7:00am to go tour the USNS Lopez.
With our early start we make our way to the marina where we board our sciff that will take us out to the Lopez. As we board the Lopez we are questioned about who we are and why we are there. Hmmm, did someone drop the ball? We are then met by two marines that will be our tour guides. They were aware that we were coming, but as we made our way up to the bridge we were again greeted by questions of why we were there and did we have clearance. Our escorts straightened things out and we proceeded. After a short tour of the bridge and heli-deck we went down to the cargo hold were they store all the vehicles. As we were checking out the M1A1 battle tanks, we were again questioned as to who we were and why we were climbing all over their tanks. Our two escorts straightened things out again, but the point was made that they really didn’t want us there. After our strange tour we left the Lopez and headed back to the marina. We have some time for lunch before we go take a tour of the NSF Security building where they keep their military working dogs. We arrive and are informed that we can’t do the tour because there has been a situation that their commanding officer had to deal with. Bummer, I do like watching the dogs do their thing. We now head back over to the Island room to do a meet and greet with the MWR staff and the NGIS (Navy Gateway Inns and Suites) staff. These are the two groups that take care of us during our stay on the island. This goes well and is the last thing on our itinerary and we have a few hours before we have to take our bags over to customs for our flight later this evening. We get some rest, pack, and take our bags to the airport at 6:30pm.
We don’t have to be back at the airport until 11:25pm. We all go out to eat for one last time at the Peace Keeper Restaurant. They were having wing night at the Officers Club but everyone wanted to eat at the PK. The staff at the PK said that the staff at the Officers Club were jealous that we did not come there to eat, so after dinner I walked the guys over to do a meet and greet with the O Club staff. This made them very happy and were no longer jealous. We still have a couple of hours to rest and clean up before our flight. We board our flight at 1:00am to travel back to Singapore. This flight is on a 757 semi commercial plane that has actual passenger seats like a normal plane. I have the whole row to myself to stretch out and get some sleep. Wrong. The guy in front of me talked so loud the whole flight that I did not sleep a wink. I even asked the flight attendants if they had any earplugs but ti no avail. Everyone else on the flight is asleep, I was not a happy camper at all. Grrrr!!!
We arrive back in Singapore at about 8:30am clear customs and make it to the hotel around 9:30. Our rooms are ready thank god, because with no sleep on the flight over I am ready for a shower and a bed. We have a free day today and tomorrow so we get a little more sight seeing in around Singapore. This really is a beautiful city with its great architecture and abundant trees and plants throughout the city. Most of us go out later for a few drinks which are quite pricey. The first place we go we order 6 shots of Jack and 2 beers…$100! We move on and find an Indian restaurant that has buy 1 get 1 which is a little more reasonable. With some food and drinks I decide to call it a night. A few of the guys decided to go to a club that was located on the 65th floor of one of the buildings downtown. After seeing their pictures I wish I had gone with them. Sucks getting old.
We have another free day today. Paul, Blake, and myself decide to go hit up a golf course while the others go for more chicken and rice. The golf course is decent, but very tight, we lose a lot of golf balls. I was warned by Reino while we were in Diego to not go into the rough after our ball, due to cobras. Yeah, so we lost a lot of balls. After golf and a shower we meet back up with the rest of the guys to have one last dinner together. We hit up this Mexican restaurant across the street from the hotel. The food was amazing! Tomorrow will be our last day and our last show before we come home. Very sad that it is coming to an end, but looking forward to getting home.
Happy Birthday mom! Blake and Mike get picked up at the hotel at 12:30pm by Nelson Sinnappan with the MWR and are taken to the Terror Club to meet with the production company and prepare for sound check. Nelson picks the rest of us up at 2:30pm and we make our way to the Terror Club. Blake is ready for us and sound check goes very smooth. The Naval Installation is beautiful and houses about 500 military families. The Installation looks more like a high end resort, not a bad place to be stationed. The Terror Club itself is awesome. It has a nice restaurant, pool, and a large outdoor pavilion where the show will be performed. After sound check we have dinner at the restaurant and the food is very very good. After dinner Greg Brown, the MWR director, has set up a special meet and greet with some of the military teens who are interested musical careers. This is a great!! The guys in the band just hang out with them and answer all their questions. I cannot stress enough how great the guys in the band are, they are very personable and everyone there is so appreciative of their willingness to spend the personal time with them. We have about 30 minutes until showtime and the guys get focused to do the show.
The show is outstanding and is the biggest crowd they have had there for a show. The crowd is really into it and give the guys a standing ovation at the end. We give the guys about a 15 minute break after the show before the meet and greet. The meet and greet is super. There are a lot of young kids there and the guys in the band do an outstanding job. Again they are complimented on how personable they are and everyone involved is very very happy. What a perfect day to end the tour. The restaurant has prepared us food to take back to the hotel with us and we head that way. We have a 4:30am lobby call to start our journey back back home.
We are picked up at 4:30am and arrive at the airport just after the ticket counters open. We all get our bags checked and all flights are on time. We all make the 6 hour flight to Tokyo which is our last stop before we go our separate ways. Everyone’s connecting flights are on time and we have time to hang out in the United lounge before we have to say our goodbyes. Matt Scannell and Blake are headed back to LA, Mike is headed to Houston, and Ron, Paul, Matt Robbins and myself are going to DC. After our short 14 hour flight to DC, we clear customs and say goodbye to Matt who is headed to Boston. Again all flights are on time and the rest of us make our last little flight to Nashville. We arrive and so do all of our bags. After 25 hours of travel it is great to be back home. It was truly an honor getting to spend the last two weeks with these guys and I’m going to miss every one of them. With that being said it was a great tour and I am very glad to be home!