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 News Article

Forward Base in Indian Ocean Gets First-class USO Visit

By By Lisa Ferdinando
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

DIEGO GARCIA, March 7, 2015 – On a small, isolated atoll here in the Indian Ocean sits an obscure forward base nicknamed the "footprint of freedom" that supports two theaters of operation.

"If there is a crisis in the Indian Ocean, Pacific, or the Middle East, we're here to support," said Navy Capt. Jason Jorgensen, commander for the Navy Support Facility Diego Garcia.

Service members are unaccompanied on this highly restricted British Indian Ocean Territory that got its nickname because its aerial profile resembles a footprint.

Some members of the military have admitted they never heard of Diego Garcia until they received orders to the site, located south of the equator.

Because the service members are separated from loved ones and far from home, getting a piece of America, like the USO show here today with A-list celebrities, is especially meaningful, Jorgensen said.

"It's a huge deal to get people to take the time to come out here, so we really appreciate the USO putting this on," he said, adding, "This is awesome."

Show Time at Diego Garcia

"This is really special for us to be able to be here," said the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., who is leading the USO tour.

"When we heard we had the opportunity to do this, we said, 'The answer is yes. Now what's the question. Let's go for it,'" he said on stage, alongside his wife Mary.

On a humid day at an outdoor pavilion, service members took in the show that featured Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck; American Idol season 11 winner Phillip Phillips; and American Idol contestants Diana DeGarmo and Ace Young, who met on a previous USO tour and are now married.

Also making the voyage on this global goodwill mission are Miss America 2015 Kira Kazantsev; television personality Jason "Wee Man" Acuna; actor Dennis Haysbert; Colts coach Chuck Pagano; Colts tight end Dwayne Allen; and Pittsburgh Steelers guard David DeCastro.

"It was surprising being able to see celebrities," said Air Force Senior Airman Travis Arp, who said he enjoyed the show.

Service members clapped and cheered as Miss America came down from the stage to shake hands as she sang "Happy.” Audience members jumped to their feet and waved their arms high in the air when Luck asked who wanted an autographed football.

"It was fun. I think it was a great show," Luck said as the entourage prepared to leave Diego Garcia for the next stop, South Korea.

"I love watching the other performers, listening, laughing along, singing along and then going out and talking a little football," Luck said. "It's definitely enriching from our perspective as well."

The tour has already taken the traveling troupe to Germany, Italy, Bahrain, Afghanistan, and aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in the North Arabian Gulf, and the amphibious ship USS New York, which was pierside in Bahrain.

"We've had a blast on this tour," Winnefeld said, as he made his first visit to Diego Garcia as the second-highest ranking U.S. military officer. "We've seen wonderful audiences everywhere we've been."

International Perspective

Nathan Ford with the Australian military was among the fortunate few who caught a pass from Luck and is now the proud owner of a football signed by the stars of the USO show.

Ford, who was in on Diego Garcia for a brief stopover, said the entertainment was terrific.

"It goes to show how much support that U.S. forces actually do get when they're away from their friends and family at home," he said. "We get our support, but not to the extent of this -- this is amazing," he said. 

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