FRIDAY, APRIL 22ND – FIRST PERFORMANCE IN KOREA AT CAMP CASEY:
Really short night. Had to get up at 6 am to work out. Was planning to jog outside but it was raining. Also means we won’t be taking choppers to Camp Casey today. Had a shower, breakfast and then we had to go get our ID cards issued. That didn’t take long except the computer shut down just as my clerk got all the info input. She had to start over again. Darryl and I went to AFNK (Armed Forces Network Korea) for a radio interview and then met everyone back at lodging.
Since it was still overcast, the choppers couldn’t take us to Camp Casey. It was about an hour and a half drive by bus. The show was in the Gym instead of outside. Smart move with the bad weather. I was even able to get online in the gym for the first time. Helped a LOT with my workload. Darryl did an interview prior to the show and met with Major General Tucker and some other staff members. MG Tucker is really the “reason” we are here. He wanted a country artist for the Korea America Friendship Week and here we are. I had Mark Chesnutt here for that week last year. My friend Snort (have to stop calling him that since he just made “General”) told me that another friend of mine who was a Thunderbird, a former Wolf, and former Commander at Balad AB, Iraq will be coming to Korea to serve very soon.
Darryl started the show on time and the gym was fuller than I’ve EVER seen it. Our escort said Darryl had twice as many people in attendance as Montgomery Gentry did a few weeks ago. Darryl does so much for the troops CONSTANTLY – both overseas and in the U.S. that he has a huge fan base within the military community. His show was awesome. MG Tucker presented him with a 2 ID plaque/clock after the show and coined everyone. I’ve already gotten more coins my first day in Korea than I did the entire tour last week in Iraq! But, the troops in Iraq aren’t “re-ordering” their coins because they plan to be home soon.
Darryl signed autographs and took photos with everyone for about an hour and a half after the concert. I saw several old friends that I made on my many previous visits to Korea. Love coming here.
We all walked across the street to the Warrior Club after the show for dinner. Food was much better than I remembered in the past but then I paid it safe and had a cheeseburger!
Drive back was about another hour and a half and we were at Dragon Hill Lodge by 11 pm. Right now our lobby call is 9:30 am IF the weather is good. We’ll chopper up to the DMZ for a tour and short acoustic set. Then from there, chopper to Kunsan AB – my favorite base in Korea – home of the legendary Wolf Pack. One of my buddies I met at Balad Air Base – John Dolan – is the Wolf now. IF the weather doesn’t cooperate, then we have to cancel the DMZ tour and take the bus for 4 hours to Kunsan. Pray for clear weather!
SATURDAY, APRIL 23RD, 2011 – PERFORMANCE AT KUNSAN AIR BASE, KOREA – HOME OF THE LEGENDARY “WOLF PACK”:
Got up at 6 am to work out and the weather is gorgeous. Was in the gym when Dave came in and said “good news, bad news”. The weather is wonderful and the choppers can fly. But ROK has put a “bubble” around Seoul from 8 am until 6 pm and that means it is a “no fly zone”. So, we decided to take the bus to the DMZ and have the choppers pick us up there for the flight to Kunsan. It’s only about an hour drive to the DMZ. Dave wanted to depart earlier but I didn’t want to rush the guys and knew we would still have plenty of time at the DMZ anyway.
Did a really quick workout and then grabbed a coffee and bagel and hit the shower. Was ready in time for a quick Skype to Zac and Zoe. They were running to the camera and yelling, “Ju-Ju, Ju-Ju”. Sure do miss them!
We made it to the DMZ in less than an hour and had the same tour I’ve had for the past 20 years….but I always learn something new. They guys were excited to get to cross over into South Korea and stand beside a ROK soldier. Darryl stood beside him and accidentally touched him. I have never seen one of the ROK soldiers “move” but this one did! Glad he didn’t take Darryl out!
We had lunch at the DMZ and as usual, it is one of the best meals we’ve had. I had spaghetti and it was great. When General Sargeant was here, he always arranged for us to have lunch with the Swiss and Swedes because they had their own dining facility and Chef. That was great, too. After lunch, Darryl took photos and signed autographs and then he and the guys performed about 5 songs acoustically. We made a quick stop by the DMZ gift shop and then we were on our way to the choppers.
It was a long flight – 1 hour and 30 minutes – and Darryl was urging the pilots to make one of his guys throw up. Dink came close but managed not too. The wind was blowing really hard though and that tossed us around.
When we landed at Kunsan, I was watching the person who was “parking” our choppers and thinking it looked a lot like my buddy, the Commander of the base, John Dolan – better known as The Wolf. When we got out of the choppers, I realized it WAS him. Too funny. The band and crew went to the stage and Darryl and I went to see the F-16s. Darryl told them that the day he was signing up to join the Air Force because he wanted to fly F-16s, the recruiter told him he’d never fit in the cockpit. That’s why he didn’t enlist. They told him to get in the cockpit of theirs and he tried. He actually got down inside it but his knees were up around his chin! I’m putting photos on Facebook. Then Wolf talked me into getting in the cockpit. I’ve been in one but it’s been years. I had on my tall boots, so climbing up was FUN. I told them I wasn’t getting in without a “piddle pack”. There’s no way I could sit in those tight quarters for hours and hours. I’m sure the thrill of flying would help with the claustrophobia, but STILL. New respect for all my F-16 buddies!
We left the flight line and went to the Loring Club for sound check. Wolf had arranged a special dinner with him, Wolf II, Wolf Chief, Falcon, Phoenix and I’m missing a couple of “names”. The meal was great but the camaraderie was the BEST. Wolf Chief had his “going away” party last night and I think they managed to party hard. I got some more great coins and they gave Darryl one of the Wolf plaques that I received last year. It’s one of my most cherished gifts.
Wolf introduced Darryl and the club was packed with about 300 people. Excellent show as usual. We even had some guys drive over from Osan Air Base to see Darryl’s performance. Wolf had to leave early to attend Easter Mass and left Wolf Chief in charge. Darryl signed autographs and took photos with everyone for a little over an hour. Then our choppers were on the ground and we had to leave. It was about an hour flight back to Yongsan tonight and beautiful views along the way, especially the lights of Seoul. The wind was still kicking up and tossing us around quite a bit.
Kunsan has always been one of my favoriteAir Force Bases and that hasn’t changed. I love those guys there and remain friends with them throughout the years. My first visit was with MG Steve Sargeant (a Colonel at the time) in 1999 with Danni Leigh. All the Wolf’s that I have met there go on to be Generals and John is no exception. He’s already been promoted, just waiting to pin on.
Going to bed soon. Want to shop a little tomorrow before leaving for Camp Carroll. Hopefully the weather will cooperate. But they have put another “Bubble” around Seoul tomorrow afternoon, so we’re leaving a little later than we would like. Sure it will be another great show though.
EASTER SUNDAY, APRIL 24TH, 2011 – PERFORMANCE AT CAMP CARROLL, KOREA:
Before I begin my “Today I…..” just want to reflect a little on this Holiday Weekend. Darryl has a song that is available on his website that is a free download for military personnel. The song is titled “Unsung Heroes” and the lyrics talk about the families of our military personnel. They are certainly “unsung heroes” and I can’t listen to him sing it in his show without tearing up. But, these guys over here performing for our troops and all the entertainers over the years who have generously given of their time and talents are my “unsung heroes”, too. The guys have families and loved ones that they left behind at Easter, so they could come here and let the troops in Korea know that we care about them. Darryl has a 3 year old little girl that he won’t be with today and we all know how quickly they years as Daddy’s little girl slip away. Just want to say God Bless not only our military and their families, but my special group of “unsung heroes” willing to follow me around the world, to war zones, or wherever there is a need to show some love to our troops.
Okay, now….this morning I got up, checked email, and put on my RUNNING SHOES. Weather was beautiful enough for a jog….finally…and I had a GREAT one. Ran for an hour and there were lots of hills. Am I getting older and out of shape? Stopped and got a bagel and really large latte, hit the shower, and then met Randy in the lobby to go to Itaewon and shop. I was so disappointed that the shops I’ve dealt with all these years have disappeared. My “copy bag” shop, my “embroidery shop”, my “kimono shop”….all gone. We walked up and down the street several times and I finally think I found the guy who used to be in the “underground” and make the luggage bag tags. Ordered some more for me and some for Susan Bellamy, and Lindsey. Going to go back tomorrow and pick them up and get a few more – some for my son.
We ended our shopping excursion with a visit to “Rollin Sushi”. I was just glad it as still there and still as delicious as ever. Took a taxi back to the hotel and dressed for the trip to Camp Carroll. Camp Carroll is way down South and a long helicopter ride – about 1 ½ hours. As I mentioned, we had to wait until they lifted the “bubble” around Seoul to fly out. Then when we arrived at the flight line, our pilots called to say they couldn’t land because the Ambassador of Australia was flying in. They had to wait until he got on the ground. He landed about 20 minutes after we did and we split into 2 choppers. It just might have been the worst helicopter ride of my life. According to the pilots, the winds were much stronger than predicted. They had already told us they were going to have to avoid thunderstorms. The helicopter was thrown around by the wind and the turbulence was non-stop. I don’t mind Map of the Earth and Roller coaster ride dips because the pilots can “control” those. But the pilots had no control over the turbulence and it was pretty frightening. I’ve never been so glad to get on the ground. And, the pilots told Dave that there is a possibility that the flights will cancel tonight because of thunderstorms. I asked him to PLEASE check train schedules (which is the way we usually travel when we come this far south) and see if that is an option. It was and I immediately asked him to cancel our flights and had someone drive me to the train station to purchase tickets for everyone. I do not want to take the chance that a few minutes before we are due to fly back, the weather turns bad and we have to take the bus all the way back (4 ½ hours!). The bullet train here is awesome and I purchased First Class Seats.
The show is in the CAC (Community Activity Center) which is only one year old. It’s a fabulous venue! I’ve been coming here for years and love seeing that the troops are getting some great places to hang out in their “off time”. The BOSS program here is assisting with our visit and doing a great job, too. Seeing a lot of my MWR friends who I haven’t seen for several years.
The venue was packed and they started letting people stand around the walls. We had over 300 in attendance and the fire marshal said as long as they didn’t block any exits we could pack them in. This show was special because it was a “family” audience….lots of young children who stood in front of the stage and danced and waved at Darryl. He loved it. At the end of the show, they gave him another plaque and thanked him. He is so humble and appreciative at moments like this and every presentation is special to him.
He had pre-signed autographs in anticipation of our having to leave either for the train station or choppers so the line moved quickly. He took a photo with everyone in line. We finished about an hour earlier than I thought. I was going to take the guys and buy them a drink before our hour and 40 minute train ride back but the bar on the base was closed. We had a 45 minute bus ride to the train station near Camp Walker, so I took them to the bar on Camp Walker for a drink.
The bullet train was great as usual…so quiet and of course, FAST! Most of us slept the entire trip. We didn’t arrive back at Seoul station until 1:20 am and then had to drive about 5 minutes to the base lodging.
It was a wonderful Easter for everyone because it has been such a great tour!
MONDAY, APRIL 25TH – LAST SHOW AT YONGSAN GARRISON, SEOUL, KOREA:
Was getting ready to go to the health club when the fire alarm went off. Just as I was going to go into the hallway, announcement came on the speaker system saying it was a “test”. Was able to get in a good workout before showering and meeting the guys in the lobby to go shopping. My luggage tags were ready and they look great. They looked so good, I ordered a few more! Helped the guys find some of the items they wanted. We left Itaewon and went to the little shopping bazaar on base. The guys had to go to sound check and I had to change for the show.
Colonel Bill Huber is the Garrison Commander at Yongsan now. I’ve known him for years but he hasn’t been in Korea for quite some time. Was great to see him again. Darryl decided not to do a sound check so he had time to pre-sign some photos for tonight’s autograph session. Dinner was catered in backstage according to the items we ordered from a menu last night. We were expecting the General and some other high-ranking officials to come backstage prior to the show. But, evidently the Ambassador of Australia is a higher priority than we are! My friend Rob and his family came backstage and it was great to see them again.
I was disappointed in the number of people attending the show since I expected this to be our largest crowd ever. We’ve set record crowds at the other bases but only had about 400 tonight. I met the new CSM who turned out to be a “hoot”….as most CSM’s are! We had a great conversation about the “marketing” of the event and then talked about all his deployments. He’s been in the same place at the same time I have several times.
The show was awesome and again, it was a family crowd. The kids weren’t up dancing though because there were lots of soldiers dancing. One guy kept swinging his date over his head and I just knew he was going to drop her! Darryl had another great show with an amazing response from the troops. Colonel Huber presented him with a special gift and thanked him for coming to Korea over his holiday weekend. He signed autographs and took photos with everyone for well over an hour. We were back at the Dragon Hill Lodge by around 9:30 pm. I had to go close out the account for the rooms, pack everything and been answering emails for hours. We have to be ready to leave at 7 am, so it’s going to be another “short” night. But I can sleep on the 14 hour flight. I’m just disappointed that Zac and Zoe won’t be meeting me at the airport. I land a little after 1 pm and that’s right in the middle of their nap time at Daycare.
I’m so glad the group got to take the DMZ tour this visit. It’s really important for them to know the “history” of this area and sad that so many of the younger people today don’t have a clue. The young soldiers who give us the briefing have to memorize every word and they are always excellent. The one we had this visit was only 20 years old and he didn’t falter once in his presentation.
Going to bed soon, so I can get up soon! It’s been such a great tour but has truly FLOWN by!
TUESDAY, APRIL 26TH – FLYING HOME FROM KOREA!
Got up at 4:30 am so I could answer some emails before showering and having a very quick breakfast. Met everyone in the lobby and we departed at 7 am. I managed to slip the bag tag that I had made for Dink on his suitcase after he put it under the bus. Dink is a HUGE University of Alabama fan and I’m an Auburn fan. We bicker lovingly back and forth all the time. So, when I had the luggage tags custom made for Lindsey for Auburn, I had one made with “DINK” on it, too. When we arrived at the airport and he started to pick up his bag, the expression on his face was priceless. I’ll post that photo on Facebook for sure!
We were able to “negotiate” with Korean Airlines and have everyone check in as a “group”. Things were moving right along until the agent said she could only check the musical instruments to Atlanta. I explained to her that they must be checked all the way through since we don’t have time to pick them up and go to the check-in counter at the Atlanta airport. We’d miss our connection home. Plus, it made NO sense at all that she could check our bags all the way through but not instruments. Finally had to get her to call her supervisor who immediately fixed the problem.
When we went through security, Soir had forgotten to take his leatherman and pliers out of his carry on bag. They busted him but the nice thing was, they let him go back to the check-in counter and “check” the items to Nashville. That doesn’t happen in the U.S. You just forfeit the items. Had a few minutes to shop but didn’t purchase anything but a bottle of water. When we walked on to the jetway to enter the plane, there was other “bag check” and they took my bottle of water even though it was purchased in the secure area and had not been opened. I was pissed! Darryl even told me that when he got to the gate, he was looking through his bag for something and realized he had two knives in his backpack! So, they missed those completely but busted me for a bottle of water. Sure makes me feel safe flying out of Korea.
Once on board, I realized the plane was a double decker. My office and travel agent know that when this is an option, all business class passengers are supposed to be seated upstairs. That did not happen. Not only was that a mistake but I was seated in the last row of business class. The first row of coach on international flights is always the “infant changing area” and full of babies. I was pretty upset that no one monitored the seating assignments for our 13 ½ hour flight back to Atlanta. Joe and Darryl were in a completely different section of the plane in business class. I asked the flight attendant to move me up to that section if any seats were available. At the last minute, she moved me up but seated me next to Joe instead of just seating me in that section. It’s fine but normally I don’t like to sit with anyone from our group so I can give them “space and time” away from me after the tour. Sure they are tired of me by then.
I had purchased a tuna sandwich at Subway right before getting on the plane because I know I’m not going to like the meals served by Korean Air. But the tuna looked “suspect” and I threw it away in the lavatory once on board. The meal was as bad as I anticipated. Couldn’t eat but a few bites. I watched a bad movie with lots of great actors. Can’t even remember the name of it but it about several men losing their jobs at a large shipbuilding corporation. Decided to sleep and then wake up and work at the end of the flight. About two hours into my “nap”, Joe knocked his glass of wine over on me. Fortunately, it wasn’t a full glass but was enough that we had to put a blanket on my seat. I got a can of club soda and soaked my pants in it. Learned that trick about getting wine out after Aaron Tippin spilled an entire glass of red wine on a long white gown I was wearing at an event with him. J I told him it was no problem at all because after living with 2 year old twins, I’m accustomed to “wearing my food and drink”. LOL
Managed to sleep a few hours and then 5 hours before arrival, the flight attendants woke us up to serve another meal. I couldn’t believe they served it that long before arrival. Hope I don’t have to fly Korean Air again any time soon! Flight attendants are nice but have “their way” of doing things which is pretty inflexible.
We landed early in Atlanta and didn’t have any problems getting through Customs. Our flight to Nashville was a few minutes late but at least we made it home. There were thunderstorms in the area and tornados predicted tonight, so we were very lucky. Josh’s personal suitcase didn’t make it and Delta said it got left in Atlanta. Hopefully he will have it tonight.
Another great tour with a great group of guys. I “sort of” unpacked but kept everything close by since I have to pack for Iraq again this weekend. THEN, after that tour, I get some much-deserved time at home! (I hope!)