FILTER traveled to Iraq to entertain the troops in February 2009. They were stuck in Kuwait for several days due to a sandstorm and were unable to visit as many camps as they had hoped. They vowed they would turn, and they have.
FRIDAY AND SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 17TH AND 18TH – FILTER TOUR TO KUWAIT AND IRAQ: Was feeling really good about all the flights today because we have great weather all across the U.S. I’m always a little nervous when I have the entire group flying out of a different city. Filter flies out of LAX and their guitar tech flies out of Phoenix. David Corlew and I fly out of Nashville. In a perfect world, we all meet in DC at Dulles for the international flight to Kuwait. I was able to love on my babies for a few minutes this morning before Lindsey took them to daycare. Then I went jogging and hopped in the shower. Had just gotten out of the shower when Penny dropped the bomb on me. The guitar tech forgot his passport and was going to miss his flight out of Phoenix. Now this is after his office called him and went through everything with him last night and I sent a “reminder” itinerary with big, bold red print saying “Don’t Forget Your Passport”! He was pretty upset and so was I but we roared into action.
The travel agent found a flight that connected through Charlotte that MIGHT get him to DC in time to make the connection with us. Problem is, it would cost over $2,000 to change his ticket AND he wasn’t going to make it back out to the airport in time to take that flight. There was nothing else all day that would get him to DC to meet up with us and nothing that would get him into Kuwait tomorrow at any time without it costing a fortune.
We finally changed his ticket to the same flights for tomorrow which will get him in on Sunday – our first show in Kuwait. Only cost about $400 which sounded like a real bargain by this time. My concern was him being able to go through Customs and Immigration and pick up his Visa on his own. Penny called him to tell him to make sure he turned on his international service on his phone so we could “walk him through it when he landed”. Guess what? He has a Cricket phone! So, no way to communicate with him at all overseas.
I emailed him very specific instructions and have his escort ready to pick him up when he lands on Sunday. Unfortunately I’m not real optimistic that he can pull this off but hope I’m wrong. He will miss sound check but should be there in time for the show. Thank God our first show is in Kuwait. If the first show had been in Iraq, then he would never have been able to meet up with us. I did call the production company that we rent the equipment from to see if any one of the three techs they are sending with us is a guitar tech. Of course, there are no guitar techs in Kuwait!
The good news is Filter had no problems checking in and their flight was on time. David and I did not have any problems and our flight left Nashville on time as well. Penny has been trying to call the guitar tech all morning because in their last conversation, he had arrived at the airport at around 7:45 am and was going inside to beg for mercy. We don’t know if he managed to get on the 8:30 am flight through Charlotte or if he is still in Phoenix. I need to know something before we depart DC in a couple of hours because now his Visa won’t arrive at Immigration until Sunday and I’ve canceled his room for Saturday arrival.
I had several things to do this morning because I was so tired by 2 am that I just shut down and went to bed. Obviously NONE of those things were checked off my “To Do” list before I left. I just hope I wasn’t so stressed that I forgot to bring or do anything really important. His manager had made a comment yesterday that he was worried about this guy flying on his own. We should have flown him to LAX last night and taken him out with the band. Hindsight!
And so the fun begins….
We landed DC early and Mark and Filter were not far behind us. Such truly NICE guys and this will be a great trip. Got everyone settled in the Red Carpet Lounge and gave them photos to begin signing. Penny had continued to try and reach the guitar tech all day with no luck. IF he made it on the flight to Charlotte, then he’s stuck there because that fight had mechanical problems and won’t arrive until 8:30 pm tonight! Penny finally reached him just as we were boarding the plane. He said he felt so bad about missing the flight that he just went home and “crashed”. Would have been nice if he had called us back and let us know something before he “crashed”. Hopefully he will be on the plane tomorrow. Management is going to talk to him again tonight and try to “prep” him.
We boarded on time and I went into the cockpit to meet the flight crew. One of the guys is a Brigadier General in the Air Force Reserve. He came out and personally thanked the entire group, even going back into coach and giving the crew one of his cards. See – that’s why I LOVE the Air Force! Also makes me feel a lot better about flying knowing we have military on board. His name is Brigadier General L. Scott “Catfish” Rice and Burner – he KNOWS you. J Of course, everyone knows you!
This plane has the old video system where you can’t pick your video and start it randomly. There are still “channels”. Only other option is to choose from a box of tapes and watch a video! You’d think they would have reconfigured these planes before they did the planes used in the short flights to Europe. Murphy’s law.
The meal was excellent but I only ate a few bites. Just not hungry which is a good thing, I think. There has been turbulence almost since take-off so hoping that will settle down soon. I’ve been working away since there’s nothing to watch on the movie channel. Joan Jett’s manager gave me the movie “The Runaways” and I had planned to watch on my computer. Only I forgot that special plug you have to use to plug in a computer, so I can’t do that either!!!
Guess I will sleep.
And I did! Soundly for the entire flight except for a couple bathroom visits due to drinking my water. I was still not hungry when breakfast was offered. I got the fruit plate but again, only took a few bites. Hope I’m not getting sick.
We landed 30 minutes early and I sent a text to Contee who was rushing to the airport because of our early arrival. Our visas were ready but we waited forever for the bags to come out. Fortunately, everything arrived. Got the trucks and bus loaded and headed for the hotel. There was this horrible “smell” as we got closer to the hotel and we all thought it was from someone inside the bus. When the doors opened at the Radisson, I gagged when I stepped out into the air. The stench was similar to rotting fish with a twang of sewage thrown in. This is the 32nd time I’ve been to Kuwait and I’ve never smelled anything like this.
Check in was smooth as usual and I met the manager of the new hotel that is being built – a sister hotel of the Radisson. It is called Hotel Missoni (like the designer). I’ve mentioned in every road report how much we love staying at the Radisson. Not only is it a first class hotel but the staff treats us like family. They are closing in December for at least a year – maybe more – for renovation. I can’t even THINK about it. We’ve stayed at the Hilton before and it’s nice, but the staff is not as hospitable as the Radisson. I feel so sorry for the staff that will be losing their jobs, too. I asked why they didn’t just close one floor at a time but evidently the exterior of the hotel will be renovated as well. I saw photos and it won’t even look like the same place when they are finished. With the troop draw down, I may never see the new hotel. So sad to me. When I come back in November, I’m going to the new hotel and see it but it is still being built. It won’t be open until February or March, so will still have to stay elsewhere for a while.
I worked all afternoon and got a lot done. Call my friend Kurt to come have dinner with us at 7 pm. The buffet was just as outstanding as usual and fortunately (or maybe unfortunately) my appetite had returned. Was great to talk to Kurt and get to know the new guys in Filter. I already have all the names down. So proud of myself. For some reason, all during dinner all I could think about was the delicious egg white omelet I was going to have in a few hours. They have the most incredible breakfast buffet here. J
One of the bases we will be visiting lost an airman this week. Evidently he was killed in a controlled ordinance explosion. I heard about it right before we left and wondered if it would impact our tour. Breaks my heart that we lost someone so young – only 25. The shows at that particular base have been cancelled and we don’t know if we’ll visit there or not. I hope so. The General is a friend and it’s my favorite base in Iraq. Would be nice to offer our condolences and dedicate the show to him but certainly do not want to do anything disrespectful so if canceling the performance is best, then we’ll be flexible and go wherever. The visit to the firing range that the boys were so excited about has definitely been scrapped.
First show at Camp Buehring, Kuwait tomorrow. Haven’t been there since I was there with Filter in February 2009! The guys will get to go to the simulators and “play” war after our Commander’s Office Call while the crew is setting up for the show.
The guitar tech who missed his flight is now on a flight from Phoenix to DC and then DC to Kuwait. He should be just about ready to take off from Dulles right now. Keep your fingers crossed that he makes it!
Will add some photos to the website tomorrow. Going to bed. It’s 1 am!
P.S. CHECK OUT THIS VIDEO WITH CHARLIE DANIELS: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5KFA1Nswuo
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 19TH – DAY THREE – CAMP BUEHRING, KUWAIT:
Forgot to mention that I worked out yesterday afternoon (of course I did!) and asked the girl at the health club about the smell. She seemed surprised that I would ask and said it was sewage and always smelled like that! I told her how many times I’ve been here and it NEVER smelled like this. The hotel manager was in the lobby when I finished my workout so I asked him. Here’s the answer to the puzzle: It IS sewage! There are 10 sewage treatment stations that pump the sewage directly into the Persian Gulf. All ten are broken and they have not been able to repair them. So raw sewage is spewing directly into the Persian Gulf. The Radisson is located directly on the Persian Gulf. Add to that mix is the fact that it is 115 degrees here. Got an idea where I’m coming from now? Richard (lead singer with Filter) walked outside to the pool yesterday afternoon, took a couple of breaths and immediately returned inside!
Had a great workout and had my egg white omelet! Just found out all the planes in Iraq are grounded due to dust today. Oh God!!! Last time we were stuck here at the Radisson for FIVE days in the worst dust storm to ever hit Kuwait. We are leaving here tomorrow if we have to drive out of here!!!!
I have to compliment the Filter guys. I know I say this about all the groups that I bring over here, but these guys are awesome. Their hearts are so in the right place – let’s give ‘em an awesome show and let them know how much we appreciate their service. Many of my friends think when you mention a “rock group” that I’ll be dealing with attitudes and divas. Could not be more wrong. One of the nicest, easiest groups I’ve ever worked with. So, if you’re reading this, check out their music and thank them for their support!
And compliments to Contee and his staff in Kuwait for always taking such wonderful care of all my groups. Ellen in Iraq is one of the best I’ve ever worked with. She was here last year and came back again. She’s done an outstanding job without itinerary and even though everything might change due to weather, etc., I’ve never felt more comfortable that we have a “plan” in place that we can adjust from. Really going to miss her when she leaves again at the end of the year.
Left the hotel on time and it was indeed about an hour and 45 minute drive. Our guitar tech landed while we were driving to the venue and actually arrived there a couple of hours after us – very apologetic. I assured him that “it happens”….more often than it should. J
First stop was Commander’s Office Call. He gave the artists a really nice plaque and we got the brief history of Camp Buehring. I guess I asked the most questions. With all my tours in country, I have a lot of questions! It was very informational.
We split the crew and musicians and sent the crew to the stage while I went with the artists to the simulator firing range….boys and their toys. They had a great time shooting up the video targets. I told our host that when I bring country redneck artists to the simulator, they have better scores than the troops training to go into Iraq. But, rock stars do not have very high scores! Guess they don’t spend a lot of time in the woods killing “things”. LOL
There was a big problem getting power to the stage and we didn’t get it fixed until almost 4:30 pm. Guitar tech was there and working away. Sound check ran very late because of the electrical problem. We had to rush to the DFAC for dinner – which as I’ve mentioned several times is nothing to rush too. Food in Iraq DFAC’s is much better than here which makes no sense.
The show was awesome with Rich dropping the “F” bomb regularly. I heard him say my name and walked out to find out if I was in trouble. He had told the audience, every time I say the “F” word, Judy Seale has another heart attack. Pretty accurate description. But he brought me on stage to “make nice”. LOL.
Right now we are scheduled for bags out at 7:15 am with a 9:45 am departure from the hotel. Wheels up at 11:45 and arrive our first Camp in Iraq at 1:30 pm. Can’t give the name of the Camp until AFTER we have left that area.
One of the soldiers just found me and said there was a guy walking around dressed in a pink bunny suit wearing a gas mask and wanted to know if that was part of our show! Uh…that would be a “no”. Now if we were in Norway where there was lots of alcohol involved, it would not have surprised me. That’s definitely a first for one of my tours!
A guy handed Rich a note that basically said, “F…the MP’s. Start a Mosh Pit”. Evidently the sign of a truly successful Rock show is if there is a mosh pit. We definitely had one.
Autograph line was long but manageable. About 200 photos signed plus photos taken with everyone and it lasted a couple of hours. I walked the line and thanked everyone and gave them the photos. Met a young kid named Jason who “said” he was Bo Bice’s cousin. I told him not to lie to me because I’m friends with Bo. I took a photo of us and sent it via text to Bo and he answered immediately that it is his cousin. J
We finished up around 10:30, 30 minutes earlier than I expected and are driving to the hotel now. None of our times have changed….yet. I’ll send this report tonight and then will have limited internet service in Iraq. Can’t send anything until we leave the area.
I have to tell you, Richard Patrick is one of the funniest men I’ve ever been around. Had forgotten how truly FUN he is.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 20TH, 2010 – KUWAIT TO IRAQ – COB SPEICHER, TIKRIT, IRAQ PERFORMANCE:
Last night we had an entire bus load of airmen from Ali Al Salem at the show. They found me while they were waiting in the autograph line and told me their bus had to leave in about 10 minutes to go back to Ali. I took them in the back door and let them get autographs before they had to leave. Had a hard time falling asleep when I went to bed at 2:30 am. Finally fell asleep at 4 but wake up call was at 6. Got dressed, put my bags out, and lay back down for about 30 minutes. Had fabulous breakfast buffet (egg white omelet) again before we left. Everyone was in the lobby and ready to go — except Stan who fell back asleep. Fortunately our plane was still on schedule so we gave him 5 minutes to get downstairs. Rich realized he was wearing short pants (we are not allowed to wear short pants or open toed shoes on military aircraft). Since all our personal bags went to the flight line to be palletized, he didn’t have any clothes with him. One of the guys had a pair of sweat pants and loaned those to him. We had about an hour and a half wait at the terminal and then we out on our Kevlar and boarded the flight. The plane was from Little Rock (The Rock) but flight crew was out of Dyess in Abilene, Texas. Two female crew members. The plane was not air conditioned so all my makeup was gone in 2 minutes and my hair was soaked. Miserable. Flight crew was super nice and let everyone take turns on the flight deck. I made sure my two guys who get air sick get to sit up there for the combat landing. Combat landing was nonexistent so no one got sick.
- J. (our escort) was waiting for us Dave and Carlos who work with her. We went straight to lodging at Freedom Rest. I’ve mentioned this place before. It’s where troops come for 3 days of R&R and is a great break for them. There’s a huge MWR room with dozens of free computers and telephones, a 24 hour dining facility that cooks amazing food, ping pong tables, big screen TVs, a full gym, flushing indoor toilets, etc., etc. Out back are long rows of wooden buildings with air conditioned bedrooms. Latrines and showers are out back. Each guy got their own room which is truly a blessing. We had a quick lunch (Caesar salad for me) and then rushed the crew to the stage for set up and the artists to the JOC for a “meet and greet”. None of the equipment had been delivered to the stage, so I knew sound check would be late.
The meet and greet was pretty quick – less than an hour for about 80 people. Took the artists back to the stage to see if they were ready for them and of course, they weren’t. So I took them to the Base Exchange for a little shopping then we ran by the lodging to grab some bags for the show that evening. Back to the MWR gym for sound check. Didn’t have time to go back to lodging before show time. My cell phone doesn’t work in the gym and I have to walk out front beyond.
The 2 Star Army General for the base came to the show, so I went over and introduced myself to him and took him backstage. Now THIS was a first. We walked backstage and all the guys were there except Rich didn’t have his pants on. He was in the middle of changing clothes! Never had that happen before. My fear was that he wasn’t wearing underwear so I bolted immediately and left the General to deal with it. The General was cool. Just shook hands with everyone else while Rich got his pants on. LOLJ
I didn’t have internet service inside the gym so every few minutes I had to walk outside the concrete walls and stand underneath this one tree! Set up office out there. Was waiting for word to come through on WHEN our flight departs tomorrow.
Show was awesome – another Mosh Pit, of course and louder than heck, but that’s ROCK music. Autograph line was much shorter than normal because so many of the people at the meet and greet earlier this afternoon attended the show and already had autographs. We finished up at around 10 pm and went back to lodging. I’m trying NOT to stay up ALL night tonight to work. I do have wireless internet in my room thanks to Sniperhill for $12 a day!
Well, for an hour I had wireless with an excellent connection. Then NOTHING. The entire wireless network disappeared at 12:15 AM. I went into the main building and asked the MWR rep and she said that someone in Room 6 must have plugged something in and blown the wireless. She said there were BIG signs in the room saying do not touch or plug anything into the power strip by the desk. I looked at the rooming list and realized the drummer was in that room. Did not want to wake him up, so I paid $12 for internet I couldn’t use.
Leaving for another Camp tomorrow but won’t put the name in here so I can send this email when we land.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 21ST – DAY 5 ALREADY – MORE THAN HALFWAY HOME!
I took my shower last night and just slept in my clothes so that I could go ahead and put my bags in the main building. Got in bed at 2:30 am and up at 6:30 am. Had breakfast and waited for the drummer to wake up. He got up at around 8 am and we went into his room. Showed him the sign on the desk that read in big, bold letters “DO NOT TOUCH OR PLUG ANYTHING IN TO THIS POWER STRIP!!!!” He said, “Oh my bag was in front of that sign. I didn’t plug anything in except my cell phone charger and that wouldn’t have done it”. Guess a couple of other guys paid the $12 for internet, too, and didn’t get to use it. Next time I will be the one staying in that room. J
We put our bags out at 7 am and at 8 am, they were still sitting in the lobby. My guys get such a little bit of sleep that I hate it when they do everything on time as requested and then find out they could have slept an extra hour. But, that’s the military for you….hurry, hurry, hurry….wait, wait, wait. Guess that’s why I never enlisted although sometimes I feel like I have as much as I come over here.
We went to the PAX terminal at 9 am to wait for our flight. Hopefully it will be on time and depart at 11 am.
We did leave on time and had another crew from Dyess. It was a really short flight and there were other people on the place with us so no one went up on the flight deck. Landed and our escorts were there to meet us. Because of the loss of the young airman, we were not allowed to visit the firing range. We split up and the crew went to lunch and the band, Marc and I went to the other side of the camp to visit with Special Ops. They signed autographs and took photos with everyone for more than an hour and then we all had a really quick lunch. Next stop was lodging to put our bags in our rooms and then I took the artists to the hospital. That tour was, of course, awesome as usual. There were only a few military men and women being treated and those were non-combat injuries. We did meet the two cutest Iraqi children and I took photos of them. One was a little girl injured in a car accident and one was a darling little curly headed boy who had been burned.
After that tour, we went to the stage for sound check, then to the DFAC for “to go” plates and then to lodging for a few short minutes before show time. The show is in the Sustainer Theater where we usually perform. General Franklin was supposed to come by and say hello before the show but had a last minute schedule change. We met his Colonel instead who was a super nice guy.
Filter had a ROCKING show with Richard jumping into the audience and being passed around over their heads. Then he lay down on the stage and sang for a long time. The audience loved it.
The autograph session was long – as usual – and someone invited the guys to go to the Armory afterwards. I was not able to go with them because the bottom head on the snare drum was busted during the show and we don’t have a spare. Trying to find one for the next two shows but with no cell phone, text or email service, it IS a challenge!!! General Franklin took time out of his very, very hectic schedule to stop by and say hello. What a special man he is. Balad has absolutely has the most wonderful Commanders available. I was worried about him because of the loss of his young airman and could see in his face and voice how troubled he was. You have to think that incidents like this happen for a reason but it never makes it any easier to accept.
Most of the techs and I were dropped off at lodging and the artists went to the Armory at around 11:00 pm. I was going to walk to the USO to try and get on email and David gave me his big knife since I was going alone in the dark. Just as I walked out of my trailer, there was a loud HISS and I knew exactly what it was. I looked in the direction it came from and there were several very loud blasts and the sky lit up like the 4th of July. Thank God my military training kicked in and I ran like my pants were on fire into a bunker. When I realized it was all clear, I went to David’s room to tell him. When he opened the door, I’m sure all he saw was a huge pair of eyeballs! I went to the office to ask what happened and they said it was an attack but a C-Ram shot it down mid-air. Nice! That’s another first for me over here.
Going to the USO was useless. I couldn’t open AOL on the wireless and they took me in the office to let me try on the wired connection. I guess AOL is blocked by their filters because I could not open my account. I got on through the web but that’s useless to me without all my “files”. Got one email out about the snare drum and then just gave up and walked back. No excitement on the way back. J
Showered and got about 4 hours of sleep. Very frustrating to not have cell or internet service. Have hundreds of emails to answer.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 22ND – DAY SIX – BAGHDAD, IRAQ
So, let’s see. We left for the flight line early morning and as soon as we arrived, we checked to make sure the flight was still tracking on time. Devon said the terminal said we are on schedule so everyone sat down to log on to the internet since it was the first place we had wireless. It was a challenge but eventually we all got on line. I met a really nice soldier who is responsible for the terminal.
Just as everyone got up and running, an announcement came on that we had to board the bus to go to the aircraft! What? So, now the flight is early and the contractors responsible for the terminal said it is “waiting” on us. I hate that and rushed our guys along. Of course, we get out to the aircraft and the ramp is still halfway up and no pallets have been loaded. One of the aircrew came walking towards the buses and I went out to meet him. “Matt” was a sweetheart and said they are stationed at Yokoto, Japan. He also said that they are not waiting on us because pallets haven’t arrived yet! AND, he said we don’t have to wear our vests and helmets like the contractors were insisting. I know they are just doing their jobs but it sure would be nice if they would check with the aircrews before imposing their own rules and regulations.
The air crew was so nice and I invited them to my Country Gold festival in Japan next month. Rich and Phil sat up on the flight deck for the short 20 minute flight to Baghdad. Plane did a few “loops” which I’m sure was instigated by those two. J Anissa and Patrick – our escorts – were waiting for us when we landed. We all went to the JVB and the guys were like kids in a candy shop taking photos of the “palaces”. Ellen and Elisa were also there to welcome us and I remember several of the troops at the desk. Feels like home. Had a little down time for lunch and either rest or check email. All the guys are in one room except our techs and David. I’m sharing with a female Secret Service Agent.
We all went to the Al Faw Palace for the tour. Again, lots and lots of photos taken. The techs went to the stage and Marc and I stayed behind for an office call with Sergeant Major Coleman. He gave us a fantastic briefing and the guys asked lots of questions. Also gave everyone a coin and took photos with them. I don’t know the new “regime” since General O left but really like SM Coleman. He says he’s best friends with SM Hill who is my buddy with General P.
After the office visit, we all went to the stage which is located right in the middle of the shopping “arcade”. The show is outside, and at 4 pm in the afternoon, it was still miserably hot. Everyone got their shopping done we think and sound check finished at around 6 pm. We split up with half of us going back to the JVB for dinner and half staying at the stage and going to the DFAC in that area. I am “dragging” today and drank about 4 cups of coffee to compensate.
Back to the show at 7:30 pm for an 8:00 pm start time. Ellen, Elisa, and Kenny came by and we have a few minutes to chat backstage during the show. It was a huge audience and very rowdy crowd – which is what we wanted. Filter really rocked – once again! Autograph line was long but we finished up by 11 pm. There were two backstage areas and after giving everyone in line a photo to have autographed and checking back every few minutes, I sat down in the part of the dressing room where the crew was to answer emails on my Blackberry. After a while, I moved into the room where the artists were signing and answered some more. At one point I looked up and saw Filter signing and looked at David and said, “When did they move the table in here?”. He looked at me as though I had lost my mind…which I had. I thought I was still in the other part of the dressing room. Let’s just say that I was getting very, very, tired and delusional.
In fact, I was so tired I simply could NOT go to Green Beans and deal with the 300+ emails that have stacked up while I haven’t had service. I was showered and in bed by 12:30 am with a 5 am wakeup call. Only woke up once during those 4 ½ hours. All the guys in Filter are showing signs of exhaustion, too, and since we’re arriving so early at the next camp, I’ve asked that they be allowed to go to sleep until lunch time at 1:30 pm. We had to depart to the terminal at 6 am this morning, so it was a SHORT night.
With no time to email, I forget lots of the fun things that are happening. 🙁 Jude
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 23RD – CAMP ADDER, TALLIL AIR BASE, IRAQ:
Bags out at 6 am and we left at 6:15 am. Ellen and Elisa came by to see us off. We were able to go to the DFAC by the air terminal and get to go boxes for breakfast. David got a biscuit and what he thought was jelly. When he bit into it, he learned it was barbeque sauce he had put on it. Yuck.
Flight was on time again and another really nice flight crew. I got the two band members who were not on the flight deck yesterday up there today. The pilots actually flipped the plane over and dropped down for them to take photos of the Ziggerot (Birthplace of Abraham).
Our escorts were waiting for us and had keys to lodging. We went directly to lodging which for the band is individual “dry” trailers with latrines and showers right out front. The crew is in another area entirely that is near the stage. We were in lodging by around 10:30 am and nothing was scheduled until 1:30 pm – lunch. I think almost everyone took a nap except me. We had “wired” internet in our trailers and I started working on answering some of my 500+ emails. Unbelievable how quickly they pile up when you go for two days with no service. I was helping David get his connected and just as I was leaving there was this really loud boom. We both looked at each other and I thought about diving under his bed. We realized it was the bit metal locker beside his bed and one of the doors had popped open.
Lunch at the DFAC was unbelievably good. Still amazes me that it’s better in the really remote, “primitive” camps and so horrible in Kuwait. After lunch, the guys wanted to go see the Predators and other remotely piloted aircraft. Since I had “personal” access to those for the last two years, I opted to go work on more emails. I told our escorts to be sure and pick David up at 3:30 pm to go to the stage and pick me up at 4:30 pm to go to the stage. I did walk up to the BX to buy alarm clocks and a towel – both of which I seemed to have left somewhere. Of course, once I got back to the room, I found the alarm clocks.
Guys really enjoyed their visit with the Predators. They stopped by Green Beans for coffee – which is their new favorite coffee shop.
Was sitting on one of the beds (there is not desk) answering email when something started biting me. Thankfully I had Bounce dryer sheets and some heavy duty “Off”. David knocked on my door and said no one had picked him up and it was already almost 4 pm. They finally arrived and I reminded him to have me picked up at 4:30 pm. Went out there at about 4:25 pm and waited and waited and waited. At 5:30 pm, I was finally picked up. Evidently sound check was running late and the escorts assumed that since they weren’t picking the band up until 5:30 pm, there was no reason to pick me up either. I actually had lots of things I needed to do since it was the last show and I needed to “re-pack” the show duffles. Anyway, David helped me get photos torn and bags sorted. Sound check ran so late that we did not have time for dinner prior to the show.
The show is indoor (thank goodness) and the crowd was huge and rowdy. It has been about 115 degrees here these past few days. The most miserable part of that is the C130 flight because we have to sit on the aircraft while they load the pallets with engines running and no air conditioning. Usually they are able to turn on some air once we are in flight but yesterday, there wasn’t any.
The guys put on a fantastic “final” show in Iraq. At one point, they had about 15 soldiers up on stage rocking out with them. It was great. The autograph line was short compared to other nights – around 150 people – but it still took a long time because the guys like to chat with each person in line. We got out of there a few minutes before 11 and headed to the DFAC that is open until 3 am. It was quite a drive across to the other side of the camp and when we arrived, it was closed. Seems they had changed their hours. We drove back to our side of the Camp and that DFAC opened up at 11 pm. Had a really quick “dinner” and headed to our rooms. I had to take my shower and again slept in my clothes because I had a 4 am wakeup call. Got in bed at 1 am and at 2 am my cell phone started ringing. I was so out of it, I thought it was my alarm clock and kept hitting it to make it stop. Finally figured out it was the cell phone and answered it. Back to bed at around 2:30 am for a couple of more hours sleep.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 23RD AND SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 24TH– TALLIL AIR BASE TO KUWAIT TO USA:
Got up at 4 am to get my bags out. When I walked out to brush my teeth, I noticed that the door handle was broken off the outside of my door! That could only mean that someone tried to break in which freaked me out that I didn’t hear it. David came running out of his room next door and said that he did it. He got up at 3:30 am half asleep and took his shower. When he came back, he went to my door instead of his and thought the door had locked behind him and he didn’t have his keys. He pushed down really hard on the handle and it snapped off. He said he expected me to scream at any minute! J
We all met outside at 4 am for the drive to the terminal. Marc said his smoke alarm went off at 2 am and he ripped it off the wall. David said his went off, too, because his air conditioner was overheating!
The guys were gearing up for a little whining about having to get up so early after going to bed so late. Then Robin, our cute young Army escort happened to mention that she has been up for more than 24 hours getting things ready for our visit and since she has a group of cheerleaders coming in when we depart, it will be more than 36 hours before she gets any sleep. And she was NOT whining. Rich said it sure put things into perspective for them.
Forgot something about yesterday. All the trailers had “wired” internet but the ones where the artists were staying did not have cables. They all went to the PX and purchased the cables and then paid $10 for one day of internet service. Remember my story about the drummer unplugging the entire internet server at the first camp? Well, guess you again got the room with the server for the entire half of the camp? You got it – the drummer. And, yes, he did it again! He says he looked around the room and didn’t see a sign that said “Do not unplug”. There were outlets all around his room but he decides that he needs to unplug the one with hundreds of blue wires running out of a panel. So, he knocked out the internet for that half of the camp again. Thank God my side wasn’t affected! The others wanted to kill him. NOW do you know why all the jokes seem to be about drummers??? J
We arrived at the terminal at around 5:15 am and the flight wasn’t scheduled to depart until 8:15 am. Had time to answer some emails since there was wireless available. (Drummer obviously didn’t take out this side of the Camp J!) Flight actually landed a little early and once again our crew was from Yokota, Japan. One of the crew members looked really familiar and he said that he flew me with Jess Reeson (another crew member) when I had Aaron Tippin in country. It was the same year I had the Comedians from LA and Chely Wright and Jess flew me on all three of those flights. He’s one of the guys I still stay in touch with and still wear his dog tag. He’s the one who gave me the luggage tag that says “Tugger” (with the story attached to that one) and I helped him get a position up at Andrews AFB flying VIP’s. I didn’t recognize this crew member’s name until he said, “They call me ‘Frenchy’”. Aha….now I remember him. LOL.
Flight was short and they pulled several G’s right after take off. We landed in Kuwait at 9 am and Contee was waiting for us. Took photos with the flight crew and invited them to the Country Gold Festival in Japan next month.
We got checked into the hotel and I started working and working and working. Felt sure most of the others were going to sleep. I worked so long, I didn’t have time to go to the health club and work out. L My dear friend Tracy Thede with the USO was coming in with a “handshake tour” and one of the celebrities is Rich’s brother Robert Patrick. I went down to the lobby to see her for a few minutes and Broadie (another of our Kuwait escorts) was there as well. Their flight was a couple of hours late landing because something was wrong with the oxygen and they had to find another aircraft before they could depart Dulles– which is the plane we will be flying on back to the U.S.
When we all went to dinner a few minutes later, Robert joined us as did Dennis (and I can’t spell his last name). He’s the large black man who does the Allstate Insurance commercials. We had a nice dinner and Marc said some really nice things about everyone which left me with no material for my speech. It was a great tour for the troops and like the title of the tour, it was “Loud and Proud”. Filter is a really special group of young men and it’s always an honor and just plain “fun” to tour with them. I think David definitely got his indoctrination into the world of hard rock this trip as well. Of course, I had to “gherm” them and have a photo taken.
Left the hotel at 8:30 pm for the airport. Check in was a nightmare with 11 people and 22 bags and equipment to check in. We finally got everything checked in and headed to the lounge to answer emails for a few minutes. I got an email from my friend just as we were about to depart correcting me on my comment about the Ziggurat being the birthplace of Abraham. Actually it is the ancient city of “Ur” that is believed to be the birthplace and the Ziggurat is a huge temple located in Ur. So I’ll just copy paste his comments here and let him tell you the story (except I have corrected his typos! LOL
The Ancient City of Ur–where the Ziggurat stands–is the birthplace . The Ziggurat is the 3-story temple that is the most striking feature in the city and can be seen from a fairly long distance. There is still much debate, but Abraham was said to have been born and live there. The city was built on the Euphrates river in the 21st century BC and was a center for royalty. It thrived until the 17th century BC when it started to decline, and by the 4th century BC, it was abandoned when the path of the Euphrates river diverted away from the city. In 1920s-early 30’s, it was excavated by Sir Richard Wooley and the “lore” of Abraham’s birthplace was excavated with it (Ur is mentioned in the Old Testament as where Abraham is from). Back in the 1990s, Saddam Hussein actually commissioned to have a section that was claimed to be Abraham’s family’s house rebuilt for a visit from Pope John Paul II, and you can walk through that area and see pretty much what it might have looked like.
We boarded on time and I went up to meet the pilots. Three of the four are military and really nice men. We chatted for a while and then I took my seat for take off. There’s supposed to be a little turbulence but nothing significant I hope.
Flight was great. I worked, slept, ate breakfast and slept some more! All our bags arrived in DC and everyone headed to their respective gates. Our flight to Nashville is on time and supposedly we only have 20 passengers. Our Purser on the flight was from Nashville and will be flying with us.
We actually had a little time to spend in the Red Carpet Lounge and I got a few emails downloaded and answered. Rich and I almost got into a heated discussion about religion and politics but I realized where it was going and bolted for my computer. That’s a great way to ruin a friendship. J
Flight to Nashville was on time and there were definitely more than 20 people on there but it wasn’t full either. Landing on time.
It was another great tour. I really like taking people who have never been on one of these tours. Only 4 of the 9 people in Filter had gone over with me last year. The guys were all great, spending quality time with everyone they met – not because it was expected of them but because they truly care about our men and women in uniform and appreciate their sacrifices. Trust me, the service personnel can always tell who is there for the right reason and they loved Filter.
Back home and been kissing my babies for hours and hours.