The Sea Gals and Roy Lewis completed the AFE Tour on Feb. 13th. The tour to Kosovo, Bahrain and Djibouti took 10 days and 13 flights. We were fortunate to stop off for two days in Paris, France on our way back to the US. Thank you Armed Forces Entertainment for making this tour possible. We made so many friends and shared so many stories with our troops. We will never forget a single one of them.
Today was such an amazing day! We had a once in a lifetime opportunity to perform our last show of the tour on a ship in the Arabian Sea. We were flown via helicopter by the Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron HMH-461. We performed our variety show for Sailors and Marines aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8).
Performing aboard a ship for these wonderful men and women was an unforgettable experience. After the show we were honored to have the opportunity to visit with these fine people as we enjoyed lunch in the galley.
The helicopter picked us up on the ship and off we went for a little sightseeing while on the way back to Camp Lemmonaire. They let us strap up and sit on the back of the helicopter, while looking over the beautiful water and African terrain. This was such a surreal experience for every one of us. We felt so blessed to have had the opportunity to experience all that we did. This will be a day that each one of us will never forget.
Our second day in Djibouti was one of the most eventful and rewarding days of the entire trip. We went all over Camp Lemonnier visiting the troops, getting a first hand look at their day to day responsibilities and hearing their personal stories.
A sharp and fun team of pilots and members of the maintenance crew for helicopters on base explained the extensive amount of work that goes into keeping all of the planes safe and working properly. Roy and some of us Gals had a fun time trying on their heavy parachute gear. My heart was touched when one member of the maintenance crew told me that his wife had contacted him the day before announcing that she is pregnant with their first child. It is truly amazing to see the strength that these men and women possess as they are so far away from their families.
We visited the incredible Fighter Jets, featured in the movie Top Gun! The camaraderie was evident between all of the Fighter Jet Pilots. They all had a great sense of humor while explaining some of the nick names that they had given each other.
After a day of meeting the troops in Djibouti, we prepared to perform for all of our new friends. As 20:00 hours or 8:00 O'clock pm approached the auditorium was packed. Of the shows thus far, this was our largest and loudest audience yet. Once the show began the energy in the room was phenomenal. Looking out at our audience to see familiar faces as well as the Seahawk's 12th MAN is a part of visiting our military that our Show Group, Roy Lewis and Bryan Ricci will always treasure. After our show we thanked the troops once again. Then it was off to bed to rest up for another exciting day.
Our second day in Bahrain was so special; not only did we get to perform on a beautiful outdoor stage, but we also got to play tourist for a few hours!
We started the day with a visit to SMALL BAHRAIN base where we were lucky enough to have lunch with the soldiers and watch two of them get promoted to a higher rank in their traditional ceremony. After that, our host took us to the "Tree of Life" which is a must see in Bahrain; a lone flourishing tree in the middle of the desert.
We then continued on our way to Shaikh-Isa Air Base where we were greeted by lots of smiling soldiers and got to hang out with them during our meet and greet for about an hour. They had a beautiful outdoor stage under a large tent set up for out show which was wonderful to have the cool breeze as we performed in the heat. We had one of our biggest turn outs yet - the place was packed!
We felt so honored that so many soldiers made their way out and wished we could have talked longer, but unfortunately, we had to rush out to make our flight out of Bahrain and on our way to Djibouti!
Bahrain is absolutely amazing. We arrived to warm weather and a beautiful place to rest our heads at the Gulf hotel. We were greeted with welcoming arms and able to eat breakfast with the troops, just taking some time to sit with them and visit was a great way to kick off the day.
Our first stop on base, which reminded us of a movie set, was visiting the canine unit. We meet a sweet, strong dog named Cherry. He impressed us with his skills of completing an obstacle course following his trainer exactly. Then both Stephianes, Olivia and myself all braced the padded dog suit and let a energetic dog named Siro attack us! Now I love dogs, but man, having Siro come after me was quite the scare but it was nice to see these dogs are in great hands and are trained to do there job and do it well.
Our next stop on base was to their radio station and we got to do some on air promo spots. We were able to meet the head of security of the entire base and then off to a cheer youth clinic. We were delighted to see a good mix of girls and boys age ranging from 5-15. They were so cute and energetic and loved dancing with our poms!
We had a brief moment to freshen up and get ready for our show and had a spacious stage to dance on with a great crowd! Bryan and Roy adding in some fun to our show as well it was our best performance yet! We were received greatly by the troops and it was one day to remember and we will never forget!
We reached our final full day in Kosovo, and can’t believe how quickly our time here has flown by! Getting the chance to meet with and talk to the soldiers and staff here has been such a special experience, we are so honored to meet them and get a chance to thank them in person.
One of the highlights of our day today was visiting the K-9 Unit at Camp Bondsteel. We were introduced to four intelligent and highly trained dogs and even had a chance to see them in action. Roy Lewis and our resident comedian Bryan Ricci both stepped up to the plate when asked to put on the bite suit and play the part of “security threat” for their demonstration. We definitely enjoyed witnessing a couple face plants in the snow when the dogs were instructed to chase both of the runaway “threats.”
Later on we packed up our bags and made the trek over to Film City, a camp about 45 minutes from our first stop here at Bondsteel. On the way over, we received word that the Pristina airport was closed, and the flight we were expecting to board after our show tonight was cancelled until further notice. Kosovo is experiencing a lot more snow than they usually do at this time, which has made flying conditions pretty dangerous. A lot of us were reminded of the snowstorm Seattle just experienced a few short weeks ago!
After performing for some amazing men and women at Film City, (some of whom braved a 20 minute hike in the snow) we learned our original plan was back in place, and our flight was back on schedule! We packed up our bags, and made one final trip through the snow to board the bus to the airport. We will never forget our time here and Kosovo, and can’t wait to see what the rest of this tour will bring!
Words cannot describe the soldiers and staff here at Camp Bondsteel. I have been so amazed by their positivity, gratitude and hospitality. Even in a foot of snow, twenty degree weather and the inability to leave base the men and women, who have been away from their families since October, greet us every morning with a smile.
Our day started off with a trip to the hangers on base where we were able to tour the black hawk helicopters that the aviation crew flies and maintains. We sat in the cockpit and were able to speak with the crew about the difficulties, persision and dedication it takes to fly the aircrafts.
Along with meeting "Mr. Kosovo," who is actually from Texas, and the others in the aviation crew, we were able to meet the Medi Vac team. We learned about how much teamwork and trust goes into every rescue or life saving mission that they go out on. And how in their 24 hour shifts they have to train relentlessly to be fully prepared for any situation they are thrown into.
The next outing was a visit to the base hospital where we were greeted by so many smiling faces. We met dentists, optomitrists, pharmasists, life coaches and every other type of doctor, specialist and tech you can think of. I have no doubt that those deployed here are in very good hands if they are ever to get sick.
Our last event of the night was our show! After a day of meeting the people who live here we were so excited to give them an evening of entertainment and laughter. Brian Ricci was in top comedic form and Roy Lewis even came up on stage to compete against a soldier in our Sea Gal football race, complete with lime green poms. We had an amazing turn out tonight and can only hope that every crowd is as enthuiastic and supportive as they are here. After the show we were able to meet and thank each one of our fans during an autograph and photo session. Next up, Camp Film City!
The Sea Gals and Roy Lewis have arrived safely in Kosovo! Long travel and four flights later we were welcomed by a foot of snow and very cold temperatures. It has not stopped snowing since we arrived!
We attended a Super Bowl pre-function party last night and met many wonderful soldiers here at Camp Bondsteel! The Super Bowl kicked off here about 1:00 AM! After staying up for more then 24 hours we simply couldn't make it any longer and had to get some rest at about midnight. Therefore, we slept while the big game was being played and woke up this morning to hear the results.
The Sea Gals and Roy are out at the Aviation Hangar at the moment and will soon be off to the hospital for a short visit. Tonight at 7pm will be our first performance at Camp Bondsteel!