The Sgt. Maj. of the Army, Kenneth O. Preston visited with Soldiers 21 Dec. at Joint Base Balad as he joined entertainers from his Hope & Freedom Tour.
Command Sgt. Maj. Willie C. Tennant, 3rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), escorted him throughout his tour with one of the first stops being the Air Force Theater Hospital. While there, Preston visited with staff and Soldiers.
The SMA then attended a luncheon with junior enlisted Soldiers and non-commissioned officers in the Audie Murphy Room at an east side dining facility.
Following the luncheon, he held two town hall meetings, one with the junior enlisted Soldiers and non-commissioned officers and the second with senior non-commissioned officers.
During his meeting with junior enlisted Soldiers Preston stated, "the most important thing for me as I travel and talk to Soldiers is to get your concerns, what's on your mind, what are you thinking about and what are your questions."
"We could not do what we're doing as an Army if it wasn't for the National Guard and the Reserve," continued Preston.
Later, speaking with the senior leadership at a separate meeting Preston commented on the effectiveness of the Army by saying that, "American Soldiers have done a wonderful job working themselves out of a job." His statement referenced to the success of multiple missions including the Southwest U.S. border mission, securing airports across the U.S. in the wake of 9-11, and establishing, training, and building Iraqi security forces to help create a more secure Iraq.
While the SMA conducted his town hall meetings, groups of Hope & Freedom Tour entertainers toured Joint Base Balad and performed at multiple locations throughout the base. Later the entire Hope & Freedom Tour entertained service members at the Sustainer Theater highlighted by country and western singers, Craig Morgan, Keni Thomas and Mark Wills.
Other entertainers performing at the show were model Leeann Tweeden, comedian Louis CK, and the U.S. Army Band Downrange. The freedom show included the appearance of the Miami Dolphin cheerleaders, Ariana Aubert, Kayla Patterson and Lilly Robbins.