This year on our annual USO tour, I decided to keep a journal about the daily activities we participated in. Every year since I have been in Show Group, we have taken a trip to South Korea for the USO tour, but this year was a little bit different. Read Days 1-4 of Cassie’s Journal.
Tour Journal, Days 5-9: South Korea
DAY 5: Dec. 18, 2011
Day 5 of our USO tour started with a breakfast that I look forward to all year long! The J.W. Marriott in Seoul, South Korea has the most amazing buffet of all time. I talk about it every year, but it seriously is that good.
We got a pretty good night of sleep, which we desperately needed, and started the day around 9 a.m. After breakfast, we got on the bus for our first visit, which was at K-16 where we ate lunch with soldiers and watched the Cowboys game with them. Luckily, they had a television in the dining facility, and the Cowboys were playing on a Saturday night back home, so it was Sunday morning for us in Korea! Spending time with the servicemen and women is always very rewarding, but getting to do that while our Cowboys were trumping the Tampa Bay Bucs was even more exciting.
K-16 is a place that I always remember every year I walk through the doors. I spent Christmas Day there the year before, and the atmosphere was a little overwhelming. Last year, there was a mixture of excitement from the soldiers and some bittersweet feelings from others because it was actually Christmas morning and they were missing their families.
This year, though, was very different. Everyone was loud and crazy and so much fun. It goes down as one of my favorite lunches ever with the troops on a tour! I even remembered a lot of friendly faces from the year before, so I had a great time.
Next on the agenda was loading the bus and heading to Yongsan Garrison, Seoul. We were told early on that we would be putting on a cheer and dance clinic for the children at the youth centers every day. Group B had the kiddos on the first day, and then we would switch off having camps daily.
Our first camp was a bit of a surprise, but a good one! In the past, only young girls have showed up, but this year we walked in to see some advanced high school cheerleaders, some junior high cheerleaders, and even little ones, too. With such a diverse group of campers, we had to quickly change the agenda that we had originally planned for the clinic, but we got it all figured out. Whitney and I taught Camp DCC all summer long, so we were still fresh on camp material and we decided to run it like a normal day at camp in Dallas.
Usually we have limited time with clinics in Korea, but for this camp, Dan told us we had some extra time before the show if we wanted to work with the kids more. We started out with some fun stretching with Miss Whitney, then moved on to across-the-floor activities. We always start out with our famous “sassy walks” in which the girls can literally do anything and make it their own. Sometimes we have some really sassy little ladies, who then get to do their sassy walk for everyone alone if it is really awesome! Then we taught them the proper technique for kicking down the floor.
Next, we took a break from learning with my favorite game, “ships and sailors.” I am always the game lady at camp, so I am constantly looking for fun new activities and games to play, but this one is by far the camp favorite every year. It is the game where we call out a command like “Man overboard!” for example, and the kids act out what we say. It is really fun when we call partner or multi-person commands and the girls just panic and scramble to find a friend to act it out with.
After playing a couple rounds of the game, we taught the girls some short routines, which we call sideline tags. We taught them our real tags, so they were a lucky group of girls. At the end of camps, we always do a little performance of two routines and we each give them a little introduction about ourselves, then we sign photos for the kids and take pictures with them. For these kids who have been relocated to South Korea, I am sure these clinics are something to look forward to. Sometimes we only have enough time to play a few games with them, but any kind of interaction that makes the kiddos smile makes me feel like we accomplished what we came for.
Following the camp, we walked over to the Collier Fitness Center where we prepared for our first show in South Korea. If we get there way before the other group, then we always try to set up our own show bags of costumes, then move on to set up someone in the other group’s show bag. I got really good with setting up Ally’s bag because I knew all of her transitions and the order of her costume changes and all that good stuff.
Once Group A arrived, we “set the show,” which is another one of those terms that DCC uses that could be confusing to other people. It is when we walk through each routine without music, and set each formation perfectly on the stage we are given that night. It can take a long time at first, but toward the end of the tour we breeze right through it. With it being our third show, it still took a while, but not an hour like our first show did.
Then the 12 of us went backstage so they could open the doors promptly at 1800 hours. We got ready about 45 minutes before the show for a visit with the Commander. The Commander presented us with their coin, which was another humbling experience, and we then gave him our special DCC coin that we started back in 2007 to show our appreciation in return. Then 1900 hours rolled around and it was show time! We made it through our first performance in Korea without any huge mistakes or crazy wardrobe malfunctions, and to celebrate we got to eat dinner. No, I’m kidding, we always get dinner after shows whether we nail them or not!
DAY 6: Dec. 19, 2011
Monday morning started with breakfast and a Dramamine for me because we were going to the flight pad next for a Black Hawk ride. We headed out around 10 a.m., and waited for our chopper. We took a half-hour ride over to Camp Bonifas in Panmunjeon, which is right near the border of North Korea. We took a quick little tour of the new facility, then headed over to the dining hall.
During our stop, we heard one of the soldiers telling another that the information of Kim Jong Il’s passing was just released. Though we were a little weary of what could happen to us, our day went on just as smoothly as planned. We did a handshake performance for the men stationed there, then had lunch with them. Lunch was really quick, but Sunni had time to try her first bite of kimchi, which is not something that I enjoyed tasting during my first year of tour. It is a common Korean dish that is basically made up of fermented cabbage and other veggies. I am not a huge fan!
Next we headed over to the USO center at Camp Casey via Black Hawk. There we signed autographs and took photos with soldiers for about an hour, and then we hopped on a bus to Camp Hovey where we did another autograph and photo session at the Iron Triangle Club. After taking another short bus ride back to Camp Casey, we started setting up for show No. 4 of the tour, which took place at the Carey Fitness Center. Once again, we helped with the other group’s bags, set the show, got ready and did it all over again!
Camp Casey is always a really fun show because of the loud crowd. Every year we look forward to that group of guys! After the autograph line, we had an amazing turkey dinner, and left for the hotel, finally getting back to our beds around 1:30 a.m.
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