Thursday, April 23, 2009

Camel Spiders

Iraq Trip - Day Eleven

The next morning we boarded another C-17 and flew back to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait. Then, we drove to the airport and spent half the day trying to get through security with all the gear. Finally, we stepped on board our Delta flight back to the USA.

As we flew over Kuwait, all you could see was sand in every direction.

Twenty hours later we landed in Los Angeles. All we could see as we decended from the clouds were green trees.

It was good feeling to be back in the US. There's no doubt that we have the greatest country in the world. We also have the greatest people who make up this country... men and women who sacrifice thier lives to keep us safe. Our Military is big in might... but it also has a lot of heart. Getting to see that first hand was an experience we will never forget.

We want to thank all of the Armed Forces for your overwhelming support and sacrifice.

Still no Camel Spiders!!!!

(Back at the Gower at the end of a long journey.)

Iraq Trip - Day Ten

The next morning we awoke to the dog barking. The storm had passed during the night and the Blackhawks were on their way.

You don't get to say that very often!

We loaded up and headed back to the palace for showers. We had two shows to do today and believe me... we needed showers.

Once again the Blackhawk ride over Baghdad was amazing.

Here you can see our accomidations for the night. The palace, one of many on the property, is a hotel for the Armed Forces.

Saddam built many palaces. One for his daughter, two for his sons, one for his mother in law, one for a wedding, pretty much any reason.

They were built and tons of water were brought in to give Saddam lakes and fountains...meanwhile the Iraqi people were dying of thirst.

We jumped on another Blackhawk and flew to another small base called Dolby.

We played to a small crowd. When we finished we were told that they had set up the shooting range for us to shoot some weapons.

It only took us 10 minutes to pack up!

They let us drive an M-1 Abrams tank. Then we shot various guns including and M-4, M-16, 9mm, SAW machine gun, and the big boy... the 240 Bravo.

The troops were having a blast watching us fire these weapons. Some said it was the funniest thing they had ever seen. I don't have any pics but we do have some video which we will post later.

The Blackhawks showed up and we were a little bummed since we would have loved to shoot more weapons.

And we are off to our second and last show of the tour.

This was a highlight for us and a wave of emotions filled us all as we said goodnight. These were good guys, giving up their freedom and comfort, to protect the freedom of every American.

We took our final Blackhawk ride back to the palace and slept in Saddam's bedroom, converted to bunk beds.

I go t a few shots of the inside of the palace.

The furniture looks like gold but it's all fake gold paint and plastic.

This is the actual chair that Saddam sat in when he conducted the 2003 interview with Dan Rather.

And Saddam's throne...

The palace was very big with a lot of fake stuff: Plastic Vases, gold paint, fake marble covering, and of course...

The table at which Saddam used to eat.

This night had to come to an end because we had to be up really early to catch a flight back to the good old US of A.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Iraq Trip - Day Nine

Today we got the all clear to fly to Baghdad. In the waiting room we met our first Full Bird Colonels. We found out that we would be getting on a new plane called a C-130. Both of these high ranking guys kinda chuckled when they heard what plane we would ride. Come to find out, a C-130 is like a mix between a roller coaster and a puke machine.

There's one little window on this plane and you are strapped to the wall. During landing the plane did a "combat landing". The plane suddenly dropped about 5000 feet and turned on its side. Our arms were dangling in front of us and the G Forces were so intense. Then, the plane swerves a bit and hits the runway with no warning!

Lunch anyone?

Things got better real quick as we were hustled to our accommodations for the next two nights: Saddam's Palace! More on this later.

Next, we were put onto our first Blackhawk Helicopter. Our equipment went in one and we went in another. You can tell by these pictures that we were beaming from ear to ear.

We strapped in...

The gunner climbed behind his weapon...

And we were off to do a show at this tiny base called Camp AQ.

They had a stage set up for us(a flatbed truck of some type) and they were extremely excited to see some American music. We were the first band that had ventured out to this base since troops were stationed there. The response was amazing!

Then a massive sand storm rolled in during our set. Sand was everywhere but we kept on playing and they kept on dancing.

Then a couple of soldiers joined us on stage for an encore. These guys could really play! The crowd went nuts!!!

One of the Iraq special forces was having the best time of his life. He said his name was "John Rambo" and all he kept repeating was, "I love America... I love you!"

The sand storm got worse and we packed our equipment thinking we would Blackhawk back to our palace for an evening of fun...


We were there for the night.

This base only had about 150 guys there and they did their best to make us comfy.

This included dinner...

And our own tent complete with army issue cots...

I shot a few pictures before bed. Can you say Platoon?

Iraq Trip - Day Eight

This was supposed to be a free day for us to relax. But, somehow Tim got confused and used the wrong shower. The Military Police arrested him and we spent most of the day getting him out of the brig.

Iraq Trip - Day Seven

Today we were supposed to travel to Camp Apache but a nasty sandstorm came in and grounded all flights. Instead we went on a mission with some of the troops. It is very unlikely that a civilian gets to go on an actual mission... then again this whole thing is kind of crazy.

We put on our IBA's and got into these vehicles called MRAPS. These things are pretty bad ass. They are meant to survive attacks by roadside bombs and have saved many lives in the armed forces. We headed outside the gates of the base and drove the perimeter looking for insurgents or any proof that IED's had been placed by the road. We stopped when some Iraqi women approached the vehicles. She was just looking for some food so we gave her a cliff bar which she fed to her camel. I was confused...

Then, there was a suspicious part of the road so we stopped and lowered this infrared robot to check it out...false alarm.

Still no Camel Spiders...

The mission took a couple of hours and we came back to base ready to rock. Since we were grounded in Tellil we decided to do another show that night. This time we would bring the full electric set.
It didn't take long until word had spread on the base that we were going to rock that night at 20:00 hours.

The show was great and by the end a huge crowd was there. We gave out CD's and signed autographs and took pics with many people. Again, everyone was super thankful that we were there.

Right after the show, a man approached me and asked if we wanted to go to a bon fire on base. This man was Daniel and he's a bad ass jujitsu expert who was a Marine Sniper. Of course we said yes and boy are we glad we did.

Turns out, this was a party for the State Department guys (not regular Army). Everyone of these guys were special forces and now work in the private sector protecting our Senetors and President.

Being at this party was like being at an A list Hollywood party...everyone was either from Delta Force, Marine Force Recon, Green Beret, Navy SEAL, Army Rangers, or Marine Snipers.

Here's Daniel who could kill me at any moment...notice that his bicept is as large as my head.

We hung out to the wee hours of the night and had a blast. Thanks to all you guys for a great night in the desert.