By Sgt. Lindsey BradfordJune 11, 2009
BAGHDAD (Army News Service, June 11,2009) - It is official - Stephen Colbert came, saw and conquered Iraq, claiming victory on day three of his six-day adventure to the Middle East.
Arriving in a C-17 from Kuwait, Colbert landed at the Baghdad International Airport June 5 and began preparing for his shows at Camp Victory's Al Faw Palace, as part of his tour "Operation Iraqi Stephen: Going Commando."
"We wanted to call it 'Feelin HOT, HOT, HOT: Papa's got a brand new Baghdad,' but it was too many words," he said.
In March, Colbert announced his visit to the Persian Gulf, but was forced to remain tight-lipped about the event in true operational-security style. Since then, he introduced a new segment on his hit nighttime talk show, trying to guess which one of the seven Persian Gulf countries occupied by U.S. forces he would visit.
Iraq was the winner.
In order to prepare for the trip, Colbert attended basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C. The training lasted eight hours, although he said he "might have dipped out an hour early."
Now a slightly trained killer, armed with a smile and his "A" bag full of satirical humor, Colbert was ready to take his show live to Baghdad, where it would be recorded, edited and sent back via satellite to the U.S. It is something the United Service Organization said was a first for any overseas tour they have organized.
Multi-National Force-Iraq Command General Ray Odierno asked Colbert to come and perform for the troops. However, Colbert said he came here for the buzz cut President Barack Obama ordered Odierno to give to him during the opening show at the palace June 7.
"I also want to claim this as my military time if I decide to run for president in 2012," he said.
Colbert filmed four shows, which began airing in the U. S. the week of June 8. The reaction from the servicemembers here has been amazing, he said.
"It's been fantastic," he said. "All these people are so nice out here; I don't understand why they want to fight with each other."
Colbert noted that he knows nothing about the country of Iraq, aside from the few days he has was at Camp Victory.
"It's hot, it's sandy, the sun is blazing. It seems like Texas, but with fewer guns," Colbert said.
Soldiers, Airman, Sailors, and Marines packed the palace's rotunda every night of tapings, their thunderous cheers echoing off three stories of marble walls.
Spc. Tareq Salha, an interpreter with 3rd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, based in Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, said he enjoyed meeting Colbert because he was such a genuine person.
"He is trying to express what we, as Soldiers, go through in a fun way, and he succeeded," Salha said. "It was an outstanding experience, and I really enjoyed being able to speak on behalf of myself."
In addition to the night's performances, Colbert spent time meeting and greeting servicemembers on Camp Stryker, another camp located within Baghdad's Victory Base Complex.
"It's a nice break in the day to come in here and meet him," said Staff Sgt. Jason Moldan, an Army Reservist with the 401st Engineer Company. "It's really great that celebrities can come over here and see us," said Moldan.
(Sgt. Lindsey Bradford serves with the Multi-National Corps-Iraq Public Affairs Office.)