SCHWEINFURT, Germany " Three dancers from the television show “Dancing with the Stars” rolled in to the garrison here under thick gray skies and heavy rains this Thu, June 16. They arrived with a set of publicists and handlers who scurried with raised umbrellas to shield the on-screen personalities from the elements as they were led inside the garrison headquarters for a quick tour and introduction to the command team.
“This is one of the best parts about our jobs,” said Chelsie Hightower, a dancer who has cut a rug on the show with such celebrities as singer Michael Bolton and rodeo star Ty Murray. She said she was especially interested in meeting the everyday Soldiers who train here. “We love this opportunity to come see the people who take care of us.”
Though Lt. Col. Everett Spain, USAG Schweinfurt garrison commander, asked the three visiting dancers " including Irish-born Tristan MacManus and Australian Peta Murgatroyd " about their own personal histories, the conversation naturally returned to focusing on the troops who train here. Spain explained to the dancers how Army units stack up, from squads to platoons to companies to battalions. The visitors were inquisitive and rapt with attention on learning about this new world.
“So how long are these guys going to be in Afghanistan?” asked Chelsie when Spain mentioned that many Schweinfurt troops would soon be deploying. Standing in his office, he explained that most deployment last one year, so after the many Soldiers from Schweinfurt take off in the coming weeks, it would be at least a year before they returned.
The room grew a bit quieter, and the jetlagged and spellbound dancers stared out the window as they took in the gravity of Spain’s words.
Then, as if on cue, the entire 1st Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment began to take formation in Andrus Garden, just outside Spain’s office. Low-sung cadences rang out from exuberant 1st Sgts. The five companies " totaling hundreds of Soldiers " quickly filed in to place.
“We used to do that in dance class,” said Hightower in regards to the counting-off of steps with marching cadence.
“It’s just like in movies,” exclaimed MacManus, transfixed on the ordered rows of troops before him.
The battalion took full formation and Commander Lt. Col. Christopher Cardoni delivered a safety brief prior to the Soldiers’ upcoming pre-deployment block leave. After a few serious moments to allow the commander to deliver the necessary information, the dancers were allowed to mingle with the troops and pose for some morale-boosting photographs.
It was difficult to tell who was more impressed by the situation: the Soldiers for receiving a visit from glitzy television stars, or the gracious stars themselves who couldn’t thank the Soldiers and commanders enough for the opportunity.
“This is a real experience,” said Tristan. “To be amongst the troops themselves. Until you’re actually here, it’s only things you’ve seen on TV.” The Soldiers could have said the same in return to the dancers.
Installation Management Command - Europe