By Sgt. Lindsey Bradford, Multi-National Corps-Iraq Public Affairs OfficeDecember 6, 2009
What better way to spend a Friday in Baghdad than to cut out of work a little early and catch a rock concert'
More than a 1,000 Servicemembers couldn't think of one as they packed an open field on a chilly Baghdad day Dec. 4, to watch the 2009 Tour for the Troops at Sather Air Base.
Pop newcomer Jessie James, comedian Carlos Mencia and rebel rocker Kid Rock took part in the event sponsored by the Air Force Reserve.
James, whose father is a colonel in the Air Force, said that the tour holds a special place in her heart because she knows military life very well.
"I've lived in 14 different places my whole life, and loved every part of it," she said. "I've wanted to do this my whole life and I'm very glad to be here."
For funny man Carlos Mencia, the tour was a way to thank the people who serve day in, day out to protect his freedoms as an American he said. Mencia was born in Honduras, a fact he joked about quite often during his 40-minute stand up act, and came to America for a better life.
"You guys are the reason I'm able to be up on this stage saying whatever I want to," Mencia said, referring to his 1st Amendment right to free speech as an American citizen. This was Mencia's second trip to Baghdad to entertain Servicemembers.
As the sun set and the laughs died down, roars of excitement echoed off the T-walls surrounding the field as troops prepared themselves for Kid Rock. As he walked on stage, Servicemembers jumped to their feet - screaming, throwing their arms up and chanting 'Kid! Kid!'
"This is the most sober crowd I've ever played for," he joked before opening his set with trademark song, "Bawitdaba."
Kid Rock is no stranger to performing in Iraq; this tour marked his sixth visit to the country to provide troops with a way to relax from a typical day.
The fact that it was shortly after Thanksgiving and relatively close to other holidays was no coincidence, said Air Force Lt. Col. Ann Knabe, Air Force Reserve Public Affairs Officer for the tour.
Tour for the Troops, formally known as Operation Seasons Greetings, is a way for well-known entertainers to show their appreciation and serve as a morale booster to Servicemembers for the job they are doing overseas, Knabe said.
Sather AB was the third stop on the 12-day, seven-show tour. Before arriving in Baghdad, the tour made stops in Turkey and Kirkuk, Iraq. From here, they will have two stops in southwest Asia, one in Germany and one in England.
"You think about how they have been travelling constantly, in different time zones, to do seven shows in only 12 days. They've put in an amazing effort and it's turned out great," Knabe said.
The event began its planning and preparation stages about six months prior to the start of the tour. Logistically, it was going to be a challenge, Knabe said.
"We had 45,000 pounds of equipment, luggage and lights to get here on two aircraft in addition to 69 people who were responsible for the show, including the artists and support staff," Knabe said.
Knabe said the effort of the artists and the crew have paid off, and she couldn't think of a better group of performers to come to Baghdad and spread cheer and thanks during the holidays.
"We have an amazing group of people doing this show. Everyone is excited about this," Knabe said. "It's a great group of talented artists, they are all patriotic and they all really want to be here."
For one Marine, it proved to be an exciting and memorable day.
"I've never been to a concert in my entire life," said Marine 1st Lt. Robert Yanez. "I've been deployed for one year, and to see this while it was here was awesome."
Yanez, a Multi-National Force-West liaison officer serving in the Multi-National Corps-Iraq Joint Operations Center, said the show was a way for Servicemembers to relax and enjoy their day. He said it helps them see that they are here for a reason, because people back in the United States truly appreciate the sacrifices they have made.
"You know, these artists could be touring back home, making millions, but instead they are here with us right now. It's freaking awesome," Yanez said.