Leaving today to escort Aaron Lewis and band for shows for our troops in Japan and Diego Garcia. I have the lovely flight at 6:00am out of Nashville to meet up with the rest of the guys in Dallas. No problems with this flight and arrive in Dallas meeting up with Aaron, Ben Kitterman, Pete Ricci, Cody Foote, Luc Nyhus, Kenny Smith, Keith Wailes, and Mike Graham. Everyone arrives and we board our 14 hour flight to Tokyo with no problems. Once we arrive in Tokyo we have to clear customs and transfer all of our gear to another terminal for our domestic flight to Hiroshima.
Upon arriving at the ticket counter we are told that the plane we have been booked on is not big enough to handle all of our baggage. Major problem. Our best alternative is to catch a limo bus for a 1 1/2 drive to Haneda Airport to catch a bigger plane to Hiroshima. So we load all our baggage, 19 pieces, and head to Haneda. We arrive in Haneda with barely enough time to make our flight. There are serious doubts that our bags will make it. Fingers crossed at this point. We arrive in Haneda and by the grace of God so do all of our bags.
We meet up with our POC Bob Rudolph and now have another 1 1/2 hour drive to Iwakuni AB. We finally make it and get in to our rooms just before midnight on the 27th. After 27+ hours of travel, a bed is a wonderful thing. We have a very busy schedule of shows for the next 3 days with more travel in between. Hopefully everyone can get some sleep and be ready to roll for the upcoming days.
So we all got a little sleep and Bob has set up a meet and greet with his guys at the MWR rec center. Great guys and really enjoyed meeting Aaron. Afterwards the band head over to get some lunch off base and do some sightseeing. I stay behind with the crew in case there are any issues with set up. Once I know the crew is ok I go to Burger King. This is the first meal I’ve had since we left the states… it’s the traveling diet. Once everyone returns we have a smooth sound check and return to lodging before show time.
We have a great turnout for the show, around 700 people, of which about 100-150 stick around for the meet and greet and photos. It was a really great crowd. Afterwards we get some food and back to lodging to try and sleep. We have an early start tomorrow, travel and show in the same day.
Today we are leaving Iwakuni and headed to Yokota AB. We have a short 1 1/2 hour flight and are welcomed by our POC Spike Uchino and Chief Paul Rodgers. We have another 1 1/2 bus ride to get to the base. Everyone is pretty hungry so we stop to get some lunch before checking in to our rooms. The crew go to the venue to set up for the show and the rest of us go to lodging before sound check. Sound check goes smooth again and we have a little down time before the show at 6:00.
We have another great crowd of about 200 and most of them hang around for the meet and greet. It takes about an hour to get everyone through the photos. We are able to get some food and head back to lodging. Chief Rodgers set up a couple of bikes for a couple of the guys and him to take a ride early tomorrow. Again we have to travel and do a show tomorrow. Busy, busy, busy!!
Got a decent night sleep last night. Maybe getting adjusted to the time zone difference, maybe not, kind of hard to tell at this point. I am able to meet up for quick cup of coffee with a friend of my Mom’s, George DeGrella. George is the former AFE coordinator for Europe and has worked a lot with my mom in the past, really nice guy. After a quick introduction with George, we are met by Nicole Andres from Yokosuka Naval Base. She is here to transport us to the base about an hour and half away. Once we arrive we get some lunch before heading to the venue. Typically we would check into lodging, but the band has requested to stay off base and spend the night in downtown Tokyo.
Quick piece of trivia. On the way to the venue we pass Kinnick High School. This is where Mark Hamill graduated. Yes that’s right I drove past Luke Skywalker’s Alma Mater.
After dropping off the production crew, the rest of us have been set up for a tour of the destroyer USS McCampbell. We are welcomed on board by Commander Christy and her crew, who will also be our escorts. There’s a lot of construction and clean up work going on. This does not matter though as this is really cool. The best thing was getting to check the missile tubes and the command center, and yes there really is a “key”.
After the tour we head back over to the venue for sound check and prepare for showtime. We have another great turnout and meet and greet afterwards. Once we are done, we grab some food and leave Base to stay in Tokyo for the night. This is all possible through a lot of work by Gregg Hooper and Nicole, who graciously put in the time to make this work.
We have a travel day today and our flight doesn’t leave until late afternoon. This gives us a little time to do some sightseeing around town. We hit up the fish market and a shopping area that has some vintage stores. The market was very interesting, not my taste, but interesting.
Once we’re done it’s time to catch our flight to Misawa. When we arrive we are met by Vanessa Martin and a couple of her staff, Lindsey and Miyuki…and snow!!They take us on a short bus ride to Misawa Air Base where we get checked in our lodging before going out to dinner. Vanessa and Miyuki take us off base to a great restaurant and we get to know one another over dinner. After dinner we head back to lodging for a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow will be our last show day in Japan.
Its a cold and windy morning with snow still on the ground. I take a short, cold, walk to grab some breakfast and I end up running into George again. He invites me to join him at his table with him and his friends. He is at Misawa because his son is in a wrestling match at the base. We have a quick bite before he has to get to the match and I go back to lodging to get ready for the day.
Vanessa picks us up and we swing by the venue before going to lunch. For lunch she takes us the restaurant at the golf course on base that has some really good food. From what I can see of the golf course it looks really nice, and it saddens me that it’s covered in snow. Either way I wouldn’t have been able to play due to our tight schedule… not meant to be.
After lunch the band does a sound check and we head back over to lodging to prepare for show time. We have another great crowd and the meet and greet goes smooth thanks to the help of the girls from marketing and the FSS staff. Afterwards I have a quick drink with the Japanese production crew who did a great job at the show in Yokosuka and the one here at Misawa. I also learned the word “Kampai” which means cheers.
I still have not adjusted to the time very well, so I’m ready for bed. We have another travel day tomorrow, leaving for Singapore.
Another travel day today. Vanessa gets us to the airport in Misawa and after we say our goodbyes, we catch our flight going to Haneda. Once in Haneda we transfer to catch the next flight to Singapore. The flight takes about 8 hours and we arrive around midnight and it takes about another hour before we get checked in to the Park Royal Hotel. We have a noon check out, so it’s off to the room to get some sleep before our travels to Diego Garcia.
Today we are off to Diego Garcia and I meet up with Frank Tagatac, who is the regional coordinator for AFE and will joining us for the last leg of our tour. It’s great to finally meet him face to face. Frank and I grab some breakfast before we all make our way to Playa Lebar Air Base. From here we have a 6 hour flight. Unfortunately due to lightning in the area our flight gets delayed about an hour and a half. The good news is that the flight didn’t get cancelled, which happens a lot going to and from Diego.
Once we finally arrive in Diego and clear customs, we are greeted by our POC’s Reno Rumeral, Carlos Canales and Teddy. I am very happy to see these guys again, they are all really great people I’ve gotten to know over the last 3 years.
Because of our delayed flight we hustle to get in to our rooms and load back to get dinner at the Peace Keeper Inn before they close. After dinner it’s back to lodging to get some rest. It’s been another long travel day.
Man I love catching the sunrise on this island, it’s beautiful here. After breakfast I get Aaron over to the radio station for an interview with Armed Forces Network Radio. This only takes a few minutes and we have the rest of the day off until sound check later this afternoon. Carlos has set everyone up with bikes to ride during our stay. These are a great way to get around.
Today is supposed to be a show at the outdoor stage, but in Diego the weather is very unpredictable so we have to monitor the situation hourly. Like I said the weather is very unpredictable and about 3 hours before showtime rain moves in. We try and wait it out but we finally have to make a decision to move indoors and do an acoustic show. It takes the crew about an hour and a half to get set up at the Island Room, so the show ends up starting about a half hour late. Even with the change of venues we still have a great turnout. We are scheduled for 2 shows in Diego so at least with the changes we will be giving 2 different shows all together. So even with the rain this is not all bad. Once we are done with the show and meet and greet it’s off to bed. Only one more show left!!
Last show day today. We have most of the day free until sound check early afternoon. Sound check goes smooth and we have some time to kill before the show tonight. Me, Frank, and Reno hit up the golf course for a quick 9 holes. It’s a small course, but super challenging and we have a blast. We get done in plenty of time to get dinner before showtime.
We have another great turnout for the show. All goes well and with the end of the meet and greet, this concludes our itinerary for the tour. Tomorrow will be our last day in Diego before we start the long journey home.
Last day on Diego. We have to get checked in for our flights at 6:30 tonight. This means we have a full day to enjoy the island. I love coming here. The everyone here on Diego and Diego itself is very special.
We get checked in for our flight and we have a few hours before to kill before we have to be back at the airport later tonight. We all head back to lodging and time to grab dinner. After dinner I still have some time to have a beer with some friends here in Diego before I have to leave. We make it to the airport in time and we have a short wait before our flight back to Singapore at 12:40am, which is still a go thank God. I will miss this place though.
We have the whole day off and we arrive in Singapore early in the morning around 7:30 am. By the time we clear customs and get checked into the hotel it’s around 9:00 am. I didn’t sleep much on the plane so I’m ready for a bed. Of course the hotel is doing some renovations and of course they are using a hammer drill directly above my room. No sleep for me. So what’s a man supposed to do… find a golf course! I am able to finally talk Frank in to joining me and I set up a tee time at Marina Bay Golf Course. The course is awesome. With the great architecture of the Singapore skyline as the backdrop. We had a late tee time, but the course is lighted for night play. Now the buildings are lit up which only enhance the views we had been seeing during the early part of our round. Like I said this course is awesome! Me and Frank had a great time followed by dinner at my favorite Mexican restaurant. What a great last day. I love Singapore, but I have a long, long travel day tomorrow.
Early lobby call today and we are head out around 6:45 am. Time for me to go home. Frank goes home too Hawaii and Aaron’s group is going to Hawaii for performances. We all say but to Frank at the hotel. It was an honor to travel with him and he helped out tremendously.
We get checked in for our flights with no problems and it’s time to start the journey. I have the lovely 30 hour trip to my house in Tennessee and am ready to get it started. The flight is on time and we arrive in Tokyo on time. I part ways with the band and I’m off to LA. I have a long layover in LA and I spend it enjoying the crazy people outside the terminal. Definitely different strokes for different folks. After the show in LA I’m finally on my last flight, on time, and headed home. My room, my bed, and my fan here I come.