By Sgt. Ry Norris, 135th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, 3rd Infantry Division PAOSeptember 13, 2010
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq - Hammer of the Broads, an all-female tribute to Led Zeppelin, sent a special message to the troops of Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq, hours before they performed at the Main Gym, Sept. 8.
"Take care of yourself, get the job done, and come back safe," said Dyna Shirasaki, the lead singer who emulates Zeppelin's lead singer, Robert Plant.
The Los Angeles based group began the second stop of their tour with a meet and greet at the Division Main Headquarters, where they remembered some of their fans.
"We meet a lot of Soldiers that have seen us in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Iraq," said Tina Wood, whose role is of guitarist Jimmy Page. "It's such a trip!"
This is not the group's first time in Iraq. All four musicians were here earlier in the year as the band known as Thund 'Her' Struck, a tribute to AC/DC. Nikki Lane Taylor (drummer John Bonham), who is not originally part of Thund 'Her' Struck, filled in as drummer for that tour.
The crew's motto, when playing AC/DC, is "Let there be rock." That motto resonated through the Led Zeppelin-fan-filled gymnasium as the first note struck a chord. The crowd rocked to hits like "Stairway to Heaven" and "Heartbreaker."
"Led Zeppelin is the best rock and roll band ever," said Maj. Jim Riely, a G-5 planner with the Division Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division. "They have a song for every mood and every occasion."
The crowd filled the stadium, including some who counted down the days until the concert.
"When I heard they were coming and I was working security, I was stoked about it," said Sgt. Jason Keller, a squad leader with the 108th Military Police Company.
The group encouraged the crowd to let loose and sing. Soldiers ran on stage to play air guitars alongside the rockers. A fan presented the bassist, Andrea Zermeno, with a large pair of men's drawers with "I (heart) U, P.S. these are brand new" across the back, in tan camouflage of course.
"It was absolutely fantastic!" said Rob Gutkowski, a counter-improvised explosive device section personnel. "These guys are so good that they are worth going to see. We're fortunate to get it for free."
The road leading to this tour was a long one. The band formed late last year after Moby Chick, another tribute Led Zeppelin band, disbanded. Practice came about once a month, when the musicians had spare time from their full-time jobs. Schedules were cleared so they could perform for the troops.
"For as much as these guys come here and sacrifice, it's the least we can do," said Shirasaki.
"There were these firefighters who just recently lost one of their guys," said Wood of a previous tour. "They told us 'We were having such a hard time with it and the fact that you girls came out here lifted our spirits."
While the troops and those in attendance enjoyed more than an hour of Led Zeppelin music, the artists received something in return: gratitude.
"All the fatigue and aches, you forget about all that when you realize what you're doing," said Wood.
"It's hard to realize that for someone like me, who's a total goofball, can make a difference [especially] when I hear 'I forgot about where I was for a little bit,'" a misty-eyed Zermeno said.
"That is the greatest compliment of all," Nikki finished.