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(L) Dan and Chaplin John Anderson at the Soul Train. (R) Always a Marine audience favorite – Dan demonstrates handstand pushups.Below: The John, Todd, Maj. Tootle, Dan, Lt. Col. Saunders, and Spencer ride the 7 ton truck to the airfield in Al Qa’im- from one show to another.
28 March, Al Asad, Iraq 09:49
We are all a bit groggy today after yesterday’s marathon. As soon as I finished the last update, we headed to church services at the “Soul Train.” One of the locomotives has been converted to a chapel. And Chaplin John Anderson welcomed us warmly and delivered a moving and unique service.
We went to lunch at the DFAC and followed suit with the other Marines who are each required to fill a sand bag with dirt before enjoying their meal. It’s an effective way to get the job done and work up an appetite!
The performance at Al Qaim took place on an outdoor temporary stage with the audience of about 250 Marines seated on cots spread out before us. The show went fantastic, and the positioning of the stage between the buildings created wonderful acoustics, particularly during Spence and John’s whip routines.
Major Tootle did part of the show with us, exchanging some rehearsed dialogue before throwing Todd and me the 7th club and reaping the accolades.
After we shook hands and signed autographs, we hurried to pack our gear so we could ride the 7 ton truck out to the flight line, past the Hewey and Cobra helicopters. Seeing the Sea Stallions come in during the daytime was very cool- the power, noise and heat they generate is shear sensory overload! As it approached I was on the satellite telephone wishing Sheilia (my wife) and Eddie (my son) a Happy Easter. Our conversation ended just as the chopper drowned out our words. This would be our only daylight helicopter trip in Iraq , breaching the security precaution this one time in order to bring an extra show to another group of Marines.
After an hour or so, we set down at a base called Korean Village , situated sixty miles from the Syrian border. This base is quite remote and “no frills,” but the hospitality and appreciation was second to none. They had been out on missions late the night before and were ready for a break. We set up inside the DFAC building, arranging the benches and clearing enough space for our routines. There was no sound system, which actually made for a more intimate experience.
We were quite punchy from the spent energy of a full day’s activity and so with some abandon, we engaged the audience and delivered perhaps our “most fun show” of the entire tour. We each found new moments and ad libbed lines to amuse each other, as well as the crowd.
As soon we were done exchanging thanks with our audience, we received word that our bird, a C46 “Sea Knight” this time, was inbound. Again, we raced to be ready and were swept away into the night, dizzied by the brief, but memorable “touch and go show.”
I have the coolest job in the world!
Another hour in flight and we landed at Al Asad, the site of our final performance of the tour. We landed around 0100 and were met with smiles and top notch security forces led by Captain Derritt, who guided us to drop off our gear at the theater. It is a beautiful venue, last played by Robin Williams and John Elway during their recent USO tour.
Finally, we found our bunk house and dove under the covers. Now refreshed, we are awaiting a bus to take us on a tour of the base. Our last show of this Operation Swashbuckle Tour is scheduled this evening. So, we will have a good bit of the day to rest, regroup, and take care of miscellaneous tasks like laundry and internet.
I am ready to wrap this up with a strong performance tonight and begin the process of heading home to my family. Tomorrow we fly back to Kuwait for a lengthy layover, then take a red eye flight to Frankfurt . The next stop will be then be Atlanta Georgia.
L. Dan and Maj. Ron Tootle enjoy the helicoptor ride to the show at Korean Village (R), a Forward Operating Base near the Syrian border.
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