Dan checks out the aircraft cockpit . It is a special day when you pass clubs
around Jake while standing on the wing of an air tanker.
March 8, 0412 (4:12am) Mannas Air Base, Bishkek , Kyrgyzstan
It’s been twenty four hours since we touched down in this country on the first official stop of “Operation Swashbuckle.” So much has happened, yet I know the adventure has just begun. I am about to turn in for the first real rest since we arrived, but before I do, I wanted to convey what has happened so far.
We arrived yesterday after almost 30 hours of travel, four flights, and many laughs with my traveling companions John, Spence and Todd. We were greeted by Sgt. Dan Sharp, our onsite coordinator and host, and ushered painlessly through customs. Grateful to have passed that first test and delighted to be reunited with our luggage, we were then escorted to the base. I understand this country is beautiful, possessing breathtaking mountains that rival the Rockies . I can’t wait to actually see them.
We made it to the base and through security. Our equipment was inspected, and we stored our performance gear at Pete’s Place, the base’s center for entertainment and recreation. This would be the site of our first performance. We went to sleep for a few hours just as the sun came up.
At lunch (or in our case, breakfast) we were asked if we would add an extra performance to the schedule- a midnight show for the security personnel and night crew who would not make our regular performance. Of course, we enthusiastically agreed and started preparations for the event.
The first order of business was to visit the barbershop in keeping with the tradition of past tours. I’m proud to tell you I am now sporting a military buzz cut about a quarter inch in length!
We obtained necessary items for the performance that we could not travel with, such as lighter fluid for the juggling torches, and set up for the show. We shopped at the local BX (Base Exchange) and met several terrific people who were so happy to help us.
This was the first show we have ever performed together. Spence, John and Todd had done tours together before, and we’ve known each other for fifteen years, but this was the first time we created a four person show. We finalized our intentions for the premiere event and rehearsed the performance.
It was a huge hit, and the soldiers were overflowing with their expressions of appreciation for our making the trip and doing the special show just for them. Afterward, we signed postcards and shook hands with just about everyone. And, with each handshake, I expressed the messages and sentiments of thanks and encouragement I received from all of you. What an awesome privileged to carry those well wishes to the men and women who need them so much. Together, I believe we are really making a positive difference in people’s lives, and for that I am humbled and honored.
Now, I’m headed to bed to get ready for another day of excitement. Tomorrow we will meet the Flight Commander, tour the base, and prepare for another show at 1900 hours (7pm). Unlike tonight’s show, which hosted a relatively small audience, we will have a jam packed house tomorrow night.
Before… and after.
Interesting Fact: Just a few days after we left Kyrgyzstan, the government was overthrown by a revolution, and the highest ranking members of government fled to Moscow. Had this taken place before our trip, it would have certainly complicated (or prevented) our entry into the country.