Theodore's World: USO Holiday Show Travels Throughout Combat Theater

« Sen. Harry Reid's Stink Bomb | Main | Achmed the Dead Terrorist - Jingle Bombs »

December 21, 2007

USO Holiday Show Travels Throughout Combat Theater

Army News Service

Dec. 17, 2007

The band "Downrange" performs their final song with other tour members and Soldiers during the Sergeant Major of the Army Hope and Freedom tour, Dec. 16, at Camp Striker, Baghdad.

Singer Darryl Worley performs with the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders during the Sergeant Major of the Army Hope and Freedom tour, Dec. 16, at Camp Striker, Baghdad.

The show began with opening remarks from Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston, who introduced everyone on the tour, including all of the band members and the stage crew.

"During the holidays, the USO tour is a piece of home to all the Soldiers," SMA Preston said. "It's also an opportunity to say thanks for the sacrifices they make."

Kicking the show off was the U.S. Army Band "Down Range" singing "I live in America." Other featured acts were Keni Thomas, a former Army Ranger; country star Darryl Worley, four members of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders; singer and comedian Sheryl Underwood; Leeann Tweeden, a sports correspondent for Fox; and Vince Morris, who was greeted as newbie from the crowd because of his inaugural performance.

LeeAnn Tweeden said this is her 8th USO tour, and she just wants to be able to go back and tell everyone first-hand what she's seen and experienced.


Miss USA Rachel Smith signs an autograph for Staff Sgt. Christopher Queen

American Forces Press Service reporter Jim Garamone is traveling with Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen and the holiday United Service Organizations show.

Following are three more vignettes on the group’s recent experiences.

Show in the Snow

CAMP PHOENIX, Afghanistan

Dec. 20, 2007

It was the “Show in the Snow” for the USO performers here today.

Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen brought the Chairman’s USO Holiday Tour to Afghanistan today. A C-17 carrying Robin Williams, Kid Rock, Lewis Black, Lance Armstrong and Miss USA Rachel Smith landed in snow at Kabul International Airport.

The temperature was right around freezing, and snow was falling. After shows in Kuwait and Iraq, the change in the weather came as something of a shock to all.

The show was sticking to cars and the grass, but not to the road as the motorcade moved to Camp Phoenix. More than 2,000 servicemembers from all U.S. services and many of the 14 countries that mentor and train the Afghan National Army and Afghan police gathered in the snow to see the performers.

Armstrong, who said that while many look at him and call him a hero for all that he has been through and accomplished, the real heroes are military servicemembers.

"We are all so excited to be here," Mr. Armstrong said. "I am personally excited to be here to share my appreciation and not just on behalf of myself, but on behalf of my family, my children, my community and the state of Texas. Thank you all. You're the real heroes."

Tour de France winner Armstrong handed the floor over to Mr. Williams who drew even more laughter from the already ecstatic crowd with his own brand of stand-up comedy.

"We send a lot of love from people back home," Mr. Williams said.

Mr. Williams then handed the stage to Kid Rock, who played several songs for the crowd and finished the USO show with his rendition of "Sweet Home Alabama."

Two sailors sitting in the crowd were singing along with Kid Rock as the Detroit rocker belted out "Sweet Home Alabama." One turned to the other and said, "All that karaoke is paying off, huh?" They "high-fived" each other and kept on singing.

“This crowd is up,” Williams said as he watched Black perform. The snow and the wet didn’t dampen anyone’s enthusiasm, and the show was one of the best so far in the trip.


Kid Rock on Entertaining Troops


Dec. 20, 2007

Kid Rock is devoted to entertaining American troops as part of the USO.

Kid Rock performs at the USO Holiday Tour stop at Logistics Support Area Anaconda, in Balad, Iraq, Dec. 20, 2007. The tour also included seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong and comedians Robin Williams and Lewis Black. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley, USN

The Detroit-based singer makes an immediate connection to American servicemembers. When he sings, the young servicemen and women sing along with “Cowboy,” “Sweet Home Alabama” and many other anthemic hits.

Rock said the question is not why he does it, “but how can you not?”

He said that every second with the troops is overwhelming. “They give their best every day, … and we absolutely must give them our best,” he said.

Being with the troops puts life in perspective, the rocker said, adding that he is proud of what the servicemembers do and wants to pay them back for their sacrifices. “The whole experience has been incredible,” he said. “I’ll do it to the day I die, so long as I am needed.”


Dust-up at COB Speicher


Dec. 19, 2007

The Chairman’s USO Holiday Show has a grueling schedule, and it’s at the mercy of the weather.

Today was a good example. The performers woke up in Taqqadum, moved to Ramadi for a show, then to Contingency Operating Base Speicher, and were scheduled to perform at night at Contingency Operating Base Liberty near Baghdad.

Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen broke off form the group to tour downtown Ramadi to see progress with his own eyes and then flew to Baghdad for meetings with Multinational Force Iraq Commander Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker and Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Multinational Corps Iraq commander.

The USO performers made it to Contingency Operating Base Speicher and performed, but a sandstorm moved in and grounded all aircraft.

At the same time, more than 750 servicemembers had gathered at Camp Liberty to see the show. Once it became clear that the troupe could not make it to Baghdad, Mullen rushed to the stage to deliver the news personally.

He broke the bad news, conveyed the performers’ regrets and stayed to pass out his chairman’s coin to every one of the young men and women who came. His staff also distributed gifts that the USO had collected -- movies, video games, etc. -- from companies and individuals. No one went away empty-handed.

The next morning, the weather cleared, and the troupe reunited at Balad Air Base, northeast of Baghdad. Robin Williams went up to Mullen and thanked him for standing in for the performers. “I tried to convey to them how disappointed you were to not be there and how much they mean to all of you,” Mullen told Williams.

Posted by Wild Thing at December 21, 2007 12:55 AM


What a package of entertainment for our troops. One of the nice things is that the troops get entertainers who want to be there, not ones that have to be there. I would like to hear the Army group "Downrange". We had an Army band in Vietnam called "The Black Patches" that played popular music and was very good. Just some very talented GIs that got together in-country.

Entertainment and cards/letters and little gift packages from America mean so much to troops. Having commanding officers and NCO's mix and mingle with the troops rather than remaining aloof is also morale building.

Wish I could be there and be an active part in this war.

Posted by: TomR at December 21, 2007 04:16 AM

These folks put their lives on hold to visit and entertain our troops. These people are the greatest.

Robin Williams may be against the war but he's one anti-war person who has proven his love and support for our men and woman in uniform time and time again.

Posted by: BobF at December 21, 2007 01:00 PM

Great idea Tom, we had our own musicians and entertainment too.

The USO has done so much for our troops, it's good to see more volunteers going to bolster the morale. Damn, where were all those cuties when I was sporting a coat of red dust on my uniform?
My experience in country was we never went to any big events, too shorthanded and too busy and we didn't have a PX either, it was either furnished or outsourced (pilfered). These folks not only put their lives on hold, some put their lives on the line. Remember Colonel Maggie?
We did have one Korean group entertain us in our operating area. With the help of a company from the Big Red One who arrainged the air taxi, the USO sent in the troup. We set up two flatbed trailers side by side as a stage with portable generators for lights and the sound. It was primitive but one hell of a morale booster, we sang off key to their attempts to sing popular songs in broken English and had a great time. We were worried more about their security than ours. We had our flak vests, they didn't have much on. I remember being sad and relieved when they helo'd out of there, they had went to great risk to entertain us.

Like Tom, I too would like to be an active part in this war. Just too old and defunct, to be anything more than a supporter of the troops and an armed home guard. Thanks for sharing WT.

Posted by: Jack at December 21, 2007 01:33 PM

"Wish I could be there and be an active part in this war."- TomR

I fully agree with Tom, I want to fight. I'm either too old -OR- too mean. So, I just do what I can at the Dallas VA, Wounded Warrior Proj, and Semper Fi Fund.

Posted by: Steve, COB Garland, TX at December 21, 2007 03:49 PM

Indeed, I have a new respect for Robin Williams.
I seldom agree with what he says here, but he spoke loud and clear for the troops, just his showing up is awesome.

And of course the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders That would have been my favorite part of the show.

Posted by: Mark at December 21, 2007 08:01 PM

I love to see this, but the media will NOT put those shows on tv anymore. When I was a girl, I loved watching Bob Hope specials. He truly cared about the troops and those who went with him did too.
These kids are missing out on so much, so we can have our fun. Let's give them a little hand from time to time and show them we really do care!!!!
Time to put USO specials back on the air.
Time for us to put that flag as high as we can and stand for something. Aaron Tippin said You've got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything and he's right.

Posted by: Lynn at December 21, 2007 09:12 PM

Tom, thank you for sharing about "The Black Patches". That is so wonderful!

Posted by: Wild Thing at December 22, 2007 12:37 AM

Bob, yes he is against the war, but like you say he has been many times to visit our troops and I am so glad. They love him and he is hysterically funny.

Posted by: Wild Thing at December 22, 2007 12:41 AM

Jack thank you for sharing about your experiences.

Yes Colonel Maggie was an awesome person. She was in a few places that truly were not safe at all.

Posted by: Wild Thing at December 22, 2007 12:44 AM

Steve, that is so wonderful and to have Vets like you there for them makes it even more special. When I go visit at the VA, I have seen where a Veteran walks in as well, and I can see the soldiers so happy to see one of their brothers come to visit them.

Posted by: Wild Thing at December 22, 2007 12:52 AM

Mark, I know what you mean about Williams, the first time a few years ago when I read that Robin Williams had gone to see the troops I was so surprised. Because of his stance about the war in Iraq.

Since then I have heard how the troops love him and look forward to his visits.

Posted by: Wild Thing at December 22, 2007 12:59 AM

Lynn, I miss Bob Hope. He even used to do special's throughout the year, like for football and other things too. And he would have service members in the shows for those as well a lot of the time. Yes I sure do miss him.

Posted by: Wild Thing at December 22, 2007 01:03 AM