As I mentioned in my previous article, I was one of 12 DCC selected to travel on the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders’ 73rd USO Tour to Okinawa, Japan and Seoul, South Korea. I joined Ally, Cassie, Ashton, Kelsi, Meagan, Melissa, Whitney, Mia, Sunni, Jackie and Holly. Dan Devens, the DCC Road Manager, Betty Naylor, a USO Tour Manager/Producer, and Brian Condliffe, a USO Production Manager accompanied us.
Our first stop was in Okinawa. Kadena Air Base in Okinawa is the largest Air Force installation in the region, the center of airpower in the Pacific, and home of the 18th Wing — the Air Force’s largest combat wing. The 18th Wing and other tenant units (the U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps) make up “Team Kadena.” Their mission is to fight and win from the “Keystone of the Pacific.”
Usually we have roommates, but this time we stayed on base and we each had our own cozy rooms at the Shogun Inn Hotel. The first morning we were there, we had a delicious breakfast and walked over to the Office Call to meet Brigadier General Molloy, the 18th Wing Commander, and Colonel Martin, the 18th Wing Vice Commander. They were both so welcoming and thankful to have us in Okinawa. General Molloy went on to tell us the history of Kadena Air Base and explained to us the types of aircraft the 18th Wing flies (F-15C/D air-to-air fighters, KC-135 refueling tankers, E-3 AWACS airborne command and control aircraft, and HH-60 Pavehawk combat search and rescue helicopters). At the end, General Molloy proudly yelled, “Airpower!” and gave each of us a commemorative Military Coin that said “Presented by the 18th Wing Commander — Kadena AB Japan.”
Our next stop was the 909th Air Refueling Squadron. The guys and gals in uniform here, the “Young Tigers,” were such a unique group to talk to. They are the lead force for air refueling U.S. and allied aircraft during all contingencies. Although they were not all Cowboys fans, everyone was so thrilled to see us. We also stopped by the 33rd Rescue Squadron — a group of advanced medics whose mission is to insert and extract para-rescue troops in times of need. We even got to see one of the helicopters they use and take a picture with their mascot, the Jolly Green Giant!
Each visit that we go on is special and life changing in its own way. We meet so many people from different walks of life, and we leave with new stories to share, new friends, and a greater sense of respect and honor for the brave men and women who sacrifice so much for us on a daily basis.
Next on the list was Teppanyaki for lunch at the Banyan Tree Club, and then we took a bus ride over to Camp Hansen, named after the Medal of Honor recipient Dale M. Hansen, where we met with members of the United States Marine Corps.
Our last stop of Day 1 was the Keystone Theater at Kadena Air Base for our first show on the 2011 DCC USO Holiday Tour. It is such a wonderful feeling looking out into a crowd of military uniforms. Of course, we love a LOUD crowd, and we let the audience know that the louder they cheer, the harder we will dance. But no matter how crazy the crowd is, we are thankful that they came to support us at our show, and we want them to know that we support them and appreciate the sacrifices they make every day. It is a privilege for us to spend time with them.
Day 2 in Okinawa was filled with visits to the Naval Hospital and USO Kadena. For lunch we signed autographs for servicemen and women and their adorable kiddos at the Kadena Food Court. After lunch (at Taco Bell, ha-ha), we went over to the CFAO Headquarters, where we were honored with the opportunity to be a part of a re-enlistment ceremony for a young Navy member. It was really interesting to stand behind him as he raised his right hand and repeated the oath after his commanding officer.
Our last stop in Japan before heading to the Keystone Theater for our second show was visiting the SeaBees. Their mascot is a flying bee holding a machine gun! They are some of the most highly skilled and best construction specialists in the military. I am glad that we got to visit them in Okinawa, lift their spirits, bring them a touch of home, and tell them thank you for all that they do for us and our great country.
Okinawa was incredible, and I experienced far more than I ever imagined. Thank you to the USO for being there until everyone comes home. Stay tuned for my adventures in South Korea!