BAGHDAD - Country music star Toby Keith lit up the International Zone here during a brief stop on his United Service Organizations-sponsored "Locked And Loaded" tour.

This tour marks Keith's ninth tour on behalf of the USO, and includes visits to the U.S. Navy's aircraft carrier USS Enterprise in the Persian Gulf; Bahrain; and Baghdad.

His trip here began with a visit to Forward Operating Base Union III where United States Forces-Iraq's Deputy Commanding General for Advising and Training, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Michael Ferriter, introduced him to several members of the Advising and Training team during an intimate luncheon in the Robert Hernandez Dining Facility.

Following lunch he entertained several hundred service members and civilian employees during an acoustical performance on the FOB's outdoor Morale, Welfare and Recreation stage.

"Although the surroundings have changed, the Soldiers have stayed the same," Keith said referring to his multiple tours in Iraq.

The set included some of his more popular hits, including "Should've Been a Cowboy;" and "I Love This Bar."

More than just a song, "I Love This Bar" is also the name of the an establishment founded by Keith - the I Love This Bar And Grill - which has three locations in Oklahoma City; Tulsa, Okla.; and Thackerville, Okla.

In a sincere show of gratitude for U.S. service members he said that he always honors the military in his restaurant by offering them a really good deal. "If you go in to the bar and show your military [identification], food and drinks are on me," Keith said.

Jokingly he added, "And you've been taking advantage of that. But no, you guys have done so much for me, so I figure it's the least I can do."

Throughout the performance he thanked service members for their dedication to freedom and all the sacrifices they're making through their service here.

As he neared the end of the performance, he played a couple songs that have particular meaning to his military fans, "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)," and "American Soldier."

"I salute all you for your service and being on the front lines," Keith said.

Keith also paid a great honor to a small group of musicians who make up DCG A&T's own "MEC" ("Minimum Essential Chords") band. The group has made a name for itself by turn their love for music into a way to relieve deployment stress, and played the opening set for Keith's concert. Keith invited them back on stage to join him in an encore performance, as they rocked out to "Takin' Care of Business."

"You have yourselves a real band here," Keith exclaimed, showing true appreciation for the group's musical prowess.

Before departing, Keith was invited to leave his mark on FOB Union III by signing a special spot on a "T-Wall" that serves both as blast protection and as a backdrop for the stage. Keith's next stop is a full-concert performance for USF-I personnel at the Victory Base Complex here.

Editor's note: U.S. Army Spc. Breeanna J. Dubke contributed to this story.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16