Kelly,* Buffalo Jills Cheerleader, shares some thoughts on the Jills trip to visit the United States troops in Kuwait and Iraq. Kelly, and the rest of the Jills, will share their experiences and photos with buffalobills.com throughout the week.*
Kuwait is nothing like I expected and has, thus far, been an unforgettable experience. Upon landing here, we were greeted with warmth and appreciation from the troops. One soldier, in particular, even slipped Lisa a hand written note thanking us for our support as he got off the plane. She passed it around for us to read and it brought each of us to tears. I hope to share it with everyone when we get home!
I was very proud of the group we have here. Unfortunately, our tour manager Fab was delayed and could not meet us in Germany. So, it was up to our 2011 Pro Bowl representative Katie to take the reins and get us our visas when we landed in Kuwait. Luckily she has been overseas to visit our men and women in uniform several times, and she is a seasoned vet to the whole process. I was very grateful to have her there and she did an excellent job of making sure we were safe, sound and taken care of. No worries though, Fab finally made it in before our first show...and he has yet to sleep!
We have had special accommodations here at Camp Arifjan for the past two nights. We have heard many personal stories since we arrived on base at 2:00 a.m. from troops who have just arrived and/or are waiting to be deployed to Iraq. Some have been stationed here for years, those like Lt. Colonel Mark Crumpton who has been here 33 months, leaving behind his wife and four daughters.
We had the opportunity to have a private meeting this morning (Wednesday, December 1) with him where he briefed us in on the geography of military bases in ASG (Area Support Group) Kuwait. As exhausted as we were, he kept it very entertaining and even managed to crack a few jokes, particularly with Jill the "Jill." We were incredibly honored when he presented us each with certificates and coins to signify and recognize our service to the troops.
From that meeting we took a 2-hour bus ride to Camp Virginia where we performed our show for the very first time! All of us passed out on the way there but managed to wake up when someone pointed out the wild camels...it is definitely not something we would see in Buffalo!
I think all of us were pretty nervous when we realized just how big Camp Virginia really was, and how important it was that we did well for this particular performance. We wanted to start our tour off right.
We ate with a few of our accompanying soldiers, one of whom was nicknamed "Giggles" (which I found very entertaining) and then went backstage to prep! Much to our surprise, Camp Virginia made it a point to include us in their "lighting ceremony." The lighting ceremony took place just before we went on. It was a ASG Kuwait-wide tree lighting ceremony where all the bases collectively light their decorations and Christmas tree for the holidays.
After the lighting ceremony, troops waited patiently for us to take the stage. The sunset was gorgeous and that is when we heard our opening tune, "I Got A Feeling" for the very first time. Excitedly we wished each other luck and that was how it all began.
I am happy to report our first show was an absolute success. I'm still rushing on adrenaline from it (or the three energy drinks I had on the ride home). Nearly 300 troops came out to watch us, and stayed after to share their stories with us, take pictures and get autographs. It was an amazing feeling, and they were so loud and excited to see us, I could barely hear myself on the microphone announcing our dance-off game.
This has, so far, been a non-stop adventure. We got back to base around midnight and immediately started to re-pack for our flight to Iraq, which will be taking off at 4:00 a.m. this morning. The C130 will be taking us into Bagdhad and then from there we will be traveling and performing all day with the help of our super tour manager Fab.
I cannot wait to share more stories after tonight. It has been such an incredible experience so far, and we are not even to Iraq yet! Please continue to say your prayers for us (even though we are having the time of our lives), and for the men and women who selflessly fight for our honor every day.