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5 Days: 15 shows completed in Afghanistan -- 13 FOBs/2 COPs
The boys and girls were rockin' and laughin' like never before. This being my 7th year and 130+ shows, I've never seen them as energetic. That being said... The danger factor was at an all time high.
Not since my early trips to Iraq, have we been escorted in by gunships as often as we were on this visit. Thank you Cobra's and Apache's. Thanks to all our bird teams for the rides.
I also wrote a new military song for this visit. It's called "The Ballad of Balad." Funny song about an Army recruiter. It made hard core crusted jaded FOB SGt. Majors laugh out loud... I love it.
I have tons of info to report back back home to the press. And as always, it's all good here. The U.S. military and their commanders are in complete control like always. 'Nuff said!
I will close for now as this damn C-17 is shaking my penmanship somethin' fierce as we're leavin' Bagram.
Mission accomplished Team USO - USA
It's our last day on America's Toughest Tour 2009 with Toby Keith, the USO, and AFE. TK and the band have done 17 shows across two continents in 7 days-- just for our military!
Ahhh, Aviano! Bueno Sera! We landed in the early evening here in Italy and were surprised to find when we stepped off the plane that the landscape was almost the same as the one we had left back in Bagram. Aviano Air Base sits at the foot of the Dolomites mountain range, and like Bagram, is situated on a plain just below snow-capped peaks. The only thing missing from Afghanistan was the dust... And the air was moist and cool. We all inhaled deeply.
Even though these postings have been fun and light, Afghanistan is a very
dangerous place and there is a war ongoing here. The military has been
protecting us and ensuring our safety each step of the way. This is partly
the reason our schedule was not published. Trouble can pop up out here at
any moment, so our troops were ever vigilant about possible threats 24/7.
From gunship escorts to black out and mortar procedures to perimeters, we
didn't see anything or hear a thing these past five days (okay, we heard a
few things, but didn't want to say that we had).
Another Combat Landing was how we began the day. Some actually enjoy such
flying, others do not. With the G Forces pushing against your body, if you
are prone to motion sickness you had better have Dramamine at the ready to
get through the ride. But because Combat Landings are a safety issue, those
of us who do not enjoy feeling like lead pop a pill and suffer in silence.
America's toughest tour consists of 25 team members. We are a mix of USO personnel (both public affairs and entertainment), our partner, Armed Forces Entertainment (AFE) is a DoD organization dedicated to bringing up and coming entertainment to military bases around the world, our support team from MWR Afghanistan, and of course TK and his band of brothers.
Back to the Pakistani border, through mountain passes, we reached FOB #11 in the afternoon. After a quick set up so that Toby could spend as much time with the guys as possible, the unplugged concert began.
We were behind schedule even before we began today due to mechanical issues with our plane. Out here, when something is broken it is not like just calling out to the main wing group and requesting immediate support. Every mission is a priority and safety always come first. So, we are in debt to the 41st Airlift Squadron for coming to our rescue, looking out for our welfare, and safely sheparding us to our next destination. We were headed into central Afghanistan again -- and one of the "hottest" insurgent provinces.
It was as though we were flying through the Hidden Valley of Ranch as the Blackhawk shadowed the jagged peaks, swinging from one side of the valley to the other on Day 3 of FOB hopping on the Toby Keith USO Tour. Today, we hopped through southern Afghanistan when lush emerald valleys meet the red desert waves of sand. Afghanistan is a beautiful country with varied terrain -- imagine combining the farmlands of Iowa, the foothills and mountains of Colorado, and the desert scrub of Arizona into one geographic area the size of Texas.
Upon arriving back at FOB #6, we prepped for the big, full band performance that evening. While Toby FOB hops, the other members of the band stay behind at the "base" FOB to do sound checks, set up, and rehearsal.
Welcome to Taliban country. That's where our FOB hopping brought us today on what we're calling "Army Day." Having had some fun with the Marines in central Afghanistan, we headed to the far east to go Army strong!
God bless the United States Marines. We could not have asked for better friends or guardians during our first day of FOB hopping around central Afghanistan.
When you are put together with a group of people 24 hours a day (especially those of us who were up for 24 hours due to jetlag), and when they’re military, you have a new circle of best friends instantly. Your conversations might be idle chatter or deep conversations on being away from family and friends. But the bond has been cemented through the common experience of your visit. We’re roughing it too. And America’s toughest tour would have it no other way, especially when hanging with the Marines.
Our 20 hour journey turned into 28 hours. But America's toughest tour hit
the ground running. Well, helo'ing actually. We landed at 0900 local time at
a forward operating base (FOB) and the team jumped into action. Everyone
grabbed their flak jackets, helmets, a few guitars, walked off the C-17 and
straight onto two 53s "Sea Stallions" to go FOB hopping.
Midair refueling. A seemingly logical and time efficient solution to travel,
and possibly even global warming. Except that another plane full of fuel has
to meet the first plane, so really it's two planes and two fuel tanks being
used instead of one. So maybe not helping the environment, but most
definitely time efficient as we learned firsthand.
We were wheels up Tuesday night--April 21, 2009--out of Andrews Air Force Base.
We are the team of America's toughest tour--the annual Toby Keith USO tour.
With seven tours under their big buckle belts since 2002, TK and his band of
brothers are nearly as seasoned at these jaunts as our military.
Country Music Star Performs for Marines in Southern Afghanistan
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – Country music star Toby Keith rocked the sands of southern Afghanistan while performing for service members at Forward Operating Bases Bakwa and Delaram, and Camp Leatherneck, in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, April 23, 2009. Read More
Keith Wraps Up 15-Show Tour in Afghanistan
By Army Capt. Michael Greenberger
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan, April 28, 2009 – Country singer and troop supporter Toby Keith finished up a 15-show tour in Afghanistan yesterday as he drew near the end of his seventh tour with the United Service Organizations.