Kelly,*Buffalo Jills Cheerleader, shares some thoughts on theJillstrip to visit the United States troops in Kuwait and Iraq. Kelly, and the rest of theJills, will share their experiences and photos with buffalobills.com throughout the week.*
Hello Everyone Back in the U.S.!
We were up bright and early this morning at 6:00 a.m. After a long day of touring and traveling, we got in at around 10:00 p.m. last night - after not having slept for nearly 48 hours.
Safely, we made it into Iraq yesterday but getting there was quite a fete. I was completely prepared to take the C-130 into Baghdad and tour from there but, much to our surprise, we were taxied via Blackhawks for the last half of our trip. It is a safer means of transportation here largely because of the risk of roadside bombings.
I mentioned earlier my terrible fear of flying. I can barely stand to take a 40 minute flight in to New York City let alone a two-hour ride on a military plane without windows...or seats. Without having a moment to rest, we packed up and left for the airbase in Kuwait as I mentally tried to prepare myself for what we were about to do. When we arrived we were fitted for gear, which included a bullet proof vest and helmet weighing in at total of 20 pounds (making me wish I packed a lot lighter).
Progressively this trip has become more eye opening. Although Kuwait is still a dangerous zone to tour in, the reality of how much I was risking flying into Iraq became stronger when we suited up. Thankfully, we were all so exhausted we were overcome with hysterics at the sight of each other trying to function in gear we could much less put on as walk around in. I couldn't decide, out of the eight of us, who pulled it off best!
We took loads of pictures before boarding the aircraft, and it was, exactly how Katie had described it...baskets and seatbelts. The engine sounds were overpowering as we piled in and sat next to our luggage which was secured on a pallet. This plane was no joke and neither were the stories I heard surrounding it. There were no windows, it was dark and, with the added weight of the gear and gravitational pull from nose diving and spiraling, I was pretty proud of myself when we got off. That was until our tour manager (Fab) led us to the next part of our trip.
Fab handed us each a pair of ear plugs. Staring at him, doe-eyed, I came to the realization that my fear of flying would be tamed in one fell swoop today. We put on our aviators and headed out to the helipad where we were greeted by two private Blackhawks (snipers included). It was like something out of a movie. We ran on to the pad and boarded the overwhelming aircraft.
The power behind military transportation and weaponry is completely humbling. I stared in awe out the window as we floated over the desert terrain of Iraq. It is the most unique juxtaposition of beautiful exterior, power and violence. To be a part of the experience is something I will never forget.
The first base we performed at was FOB Cobra, a cavalry base, where we were able to perform for the Iraqi Nationals. They sat front and center to see the show and it was surreal! A few of us even had the opportunity to be escorted back to our Blackhawk after the show, in a military Striker. From there we flew to our next show at FOB Warhorse. Although it was a smaller base the crowd was energetic and fun.
The last flight of the day we took the Blackhawk into our overnight base Spiker, in the northern part of Iraq.
I could barely sleep thinking about all the things that happened that day, including hearing gunfire for the first time just outside our rooms at Spiker. I know it is only a fraction of what these men and women go through every day, and it was a reminder of how grateful I am to do what I love every day...to have my freedom and the importance of giving back to them for risking their lives every day.
Phew! There is always so much to tell. I hope everyone is enjoying their snow at home. :) We will be back on our C-130 in a few minutes.
All our love!