By Mr. Tim Hipps (FMWRC)January 29, 2010
ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Recording artist Leigh Jones is humbled to headline the I. A.M. STRONG Tour headed to 24 Army installations during the next two months.
The concert and comedy show is designed to raise awareness about the prevention of sexual assault and harassment among Soldiers and military family members.
"I love to meet these men and women face to face and shake their hands and look right into their eyes and just thank them for all they have done for us," said Jones, who will be joined on the tour by hip-hop band Animate Objects, professional comedians and Soldier talent. "We are so, so lucky to have them in our lives, so to be able to do a small thing like this is a big deal."
The tour begins today at Fort Knox, Ky., with stops scheduled in Virginia on Feb. 5 at Fort Lee, Feb. 6 at Fort Eustis, Feb. 8 at Fort Belvoir, and Feb. 9 at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. The show then will head to Army garrisons in the Southeast, Texas, Colorado and New York, followed by eight shows in Germany and Italy.
The Army G-1 presentation, produced by the Army Entertainment Division of the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command, is dedicated to eliminating sexual assault.
The I. A.M. STRONG acronym stands for intervene, act and motivate others to stop sexual harassment, assaults and sexually offensive language, innuendo and gestures that create an environment friendly to abuse. Toleration of these acts among troops has been reduced to zero, Army leaders say. Strong, quite simply, is the Army way.
The entertainment tour was designed to help military communities realize:
* When I recognize a threat to my fellow Soldiers, I will have the personal courage to intervene and prevent sexual assault. I will condemn acts of sexual harassment. I will not abide obscene gestures, language or behavior. I am a warrior and a member of a team. I will intervene.
* You are my brother, my sister, my fellow Soldier. It is my duty to stand up for you, no matter the time or place. I will take action. I will do what's right. I will prevent sexual harassment and assault. I will not tolerate sexually offensive behavior. I will act.
* We are American Soldiers, motivated to keep our fellow Soldiers safe. It is our mission to prevent sexual harassment and assault. We will denounce sexual misconduct. As Soldiers, we are all motivated to take action. We are strongest together.
Jones' album, "Music in my Soul," features "Free Fall," a song that delivers part of the Army's message loudly and clearly during the tale of a defiant girlfriend who stands her ground against being subjected to her boyfriend's convenience.
"We want to encourage people to be strong," Jones said. "We want to encourage the prevention of suicide and sexual harassment. We hear that's a big thing among Soldiers, which is such a shame. We just want people to stay positive."
Jones joined rappers Soulja Boy and Bow Wow at Fort Bragg's 2009 Summer Concert Series. She also performed last spring for a Warrior Transition Unit and Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers group at Fort Belvoir.
"People were complaining because they didn't want to go, so we told them that they had to show up," said Sgt. 1st Class Walter Henry III, a WTU platoon sergeant whose troops were treated to a mini-concert and meet and greet at Fort Belvoir. "But when she finished singing, everybody rushed the table to get their photos and autographs and stuff. I was looking at them and saying, 'Oh, you guys didn't want to come, but now I can't make you leave.'
"When they got here, the Soldiers were trying to hide their excitement. I was looking at them and they wanted to wipe it off their face like they weren't really enjoying, and I said: 'I don't even want to hear it.'"
Staff Sgt. Chris Logas of Los Angeles, Calif., told Jones that her "Cold in L.A.," - a song about the phoniness naAfA-ve newcomers discover when they venture into the big city - classically described their hometown.
"We appreciate her taking the time to come out and entertain the Soldiers," Logas said. "It's good to know that people who are famous are taking the time out to come spend some time with us. She seems genuinely honored. It's great that she actually involved the crowd and was as personable with everybody as she was."
Now Jones can't wait to do it again.
"We went to Fort Bragg last summer and did a couple of songs and that was awesome," she said. "I sang the national anthem and a couple of songs of my own, along with a tribute to Michael Jackson. I've just been looking forward to getting this thing up and off the ground."
Jones said her grandfather played the trumpet for troops and her parents sang on USO tours for Soldiers stationed overseas.
"Just being able to go on any kind of a tour is absolutely incredible," she said. "It is just more than rewarding for me to be able to give something back to these men and women who are giving so much of their lives for us. It's such a humbling experience. There is no other place that I'd rather be singing. It just touches my heart and is so rewarding."
Jones will perform for Soldiers at community recreation centers or designated facilities, followed by meet-and-greet autograph signing/photo sessions with all attendees. She also will visit dining facilities to have lunch, interact and sign autographs until the last Soldier leaves.
"Beyond the entertainment, I love just hanging," Jones said. "I love to get a feel for their personalities and just hang out, have a good time, and let them know that we're real people and we go through ups and downs just like they do. You've just got to be positive through it all."
"They are away from their families, and when we're on the road, we get lonely. But we really have no idea what they go through. I have this song called "Cold in L.A.," and some of the Soldiers were from California. It was really good to just get a feel for the actual human being behind this huge force."
"I'm just grateful, thankful, and I'm humble to be a part of such a huge movement with this I. A.M. STRONG Tour," Jones concluded. "This is going to touch a lot of peoples' lives and I'm so blessed to be a part of it."
Complete list of shows:
Fort Lee, Va. - Feb. 5
Fort Eustis, Va. - Feb. 6
Fort Belvoir, Va. - Feb. 8
Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. - Feb. 9
Fort Stewart, Ga. - Feb. 11
Fort Rucker, Ala. - Feb. 12
Fort Benning, Ga. - Feb. 13
Fort Gordon, Ga. - Feb. 14
Fort Jackson, S.C. - Feb. 15
Fort Bragg, N.C. - Feb. 16
Fort Hood, Texas - Feb. 19
Fort Sam Houston, Texas - Feb. 20
Fort Bliss, Texas - Feb. 22
Fort Carson, Colo. - Feb. 24
Fort Drum, N.Y. - Feb. 26
USAG Heidelberg, Germany - March 13
USAG Kaiserslautern, Germany - March 14
USAG Baumholder, Germany - March 15
USAG Ansbach, Germany - March 17
USAG Schweinfurt, Germany - March 18
USAG Grafenwoehr, Germany - March 19
USAG Hohenfels, Germany - March 20
USAG Vicenza, Italy - March 22