Kickin' Around

Second Stop: South Korea

DAY 7: Dec. 20, 2011
Day 7 started out like the day before, with breakfast and a Dramamine. We were supposed to have breakfast with General Thurman early in the morning, but due to the circumstances with Kim Jong Il passing away, he was very busy and we were unable to meet.

Instead, Group B got to sleep a little later before leaving around 900 hours to go board a Black Hawk. The ride over to K2 in Daegu took about an hour. We hopped off the chopper and onto a bus for the dining facility, where we had lunch with the soldiers and did a mini-show. It was actually a really fun performance because the music kept skipping really bad, and we were having to keep up with what the CD played rather than the choreography we were used to. At one point, Sunni even yelled out that it was the remix! We had fun laughing with the soldiers about it afterward while we signed photos for them.

We then took a bus to Camp Walker where we did a very quick clinic full of fun games, worked in another mini-performance, and signed autographs and took photos with all the kiddos, all in just 45 minutes! Next, we headed over to the PX where we did another autograph line for about an hour.

After that we got back on the Black Hawk en route to Osan for the next show. Before we hit the site, though, we first stopped for a very short visit with the youth cheerleaders there. They were so excited to see us and they were such sweet, lively little girls! They were chanting when we walked in, and they had even painted a sign to welcome us to Osan.

After taking pictures with them and signing our photos, we sadly had to say goodbye to the girls, although we saw a lot of them at our show later. Then we went to the AAFES Theater and did our normal set-up routine. The performance went well again, and we had our post-show autograph line, then had another yummy dinner from our hosts in Osan. At about 11 p.m. (or 2300 hours), we got on the bus for the hour-long ride home.

DAY 8: Dec. 21, 2011
Wednesday was Day 8 and I was beginning to realize that splitting the tour between two places makes it go by so unbelievably fast! I couldn’t believe there was only one full day left. With it being our last day of visits, I had a bittersweet feeling and I took everything in a lot more than normal.

We started with breakfast, then both groups squeezed in a visit with General Thurman at headquarters because he got a tiny bit of free time in his extremely busy schedule. I could tell it was going to be a great day because, for one, it was snowing and everyone was just in a good mood and feeling very chipper.

We had a brief coffee break before loading a Black Hawk and meeting our last pilot and co-pilot, Eric and Natani, and our flight crew, Tristan and Tyler, who were so much fun. It was definitely my favorite day of the tour, and it probably had a lot to do with the fact that we had an awesome crew!

I remembered Tyler because he flew with us the year before, too. He said he remembered me because I almost threw up on him, but he was kidding because I only got sick my first year on the Black Hawks, which is why I took Dramamine like candy on this trip!

During our hour-long flight to Kunsan, we chatted with the crew and laughed at each other’s sleepy, bobbing heads. We started with lunch at the dining facility and signed autographs and took photos. It was super-packed at lunchtime there, so it was fun meeting all the men in their loud atmosphere where they were comfortable with all of their buddies.

After lunch we went to Hanger 3, where we got a tour of an F16, with some people even getting to sit in it. Of course, I have another knee injury, so I didn’t think I could squish in the little pilot area. Melissa was really excited about this part of the day because her dad used to fly F18s in the Marines, so it was fun watching her get excited about sitting in the seat and wearing the helmet and stuff.

There, we signed autographs for the Air Force guys and took photos with them. We didn’t want to leave, although when we got to the next stop on our agenda, we were so excited to see that we were at a Range Simulator. We got to actually load and shoot guns and grenade launchers and real weapons, only they were hooked up to a huge screen and had fake bullets. But they actually were the real guns!

When we were told to choose a weapon, I figured we might be doing it a little while, so I chose the 9mm gun, because it looked the least heavy. I have zero upper-body strength so I figured I would let the other girls have the big guns. This was definitely a lot of fun and a different experience than any I have ever had on a tour thus far, so I was really happy.

We then went back to the Black Hawk with our crew and flew for about 45 minutes over to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek. We went to the Super Gym and did our set-up routine once again, then got ready for our last show on our 2011 USO tour.

At show time, we began our two-hour variety performance with a little extra pep in our step. We’d had a great day, and it was the last time we had to hear the music, the last opportunity we had to dance and make someone smile on this trip, and the last time to dance with girls who would not be returning next year to the squad or Show Group.

I love each and every one of the girls who went on tour this year. We lifted one another up in times of need, and shared so many amazing memories. Our last show dancing together was perfect. We had a lot of fun with our traditional game of “Pass the Penny” during the last show, too. I forgot that we were playing and I didn’t know what was going on when Sunni tried to hand me the penny during our singing number, but I finally figured it out. I passed the penny to Mia during our next to last routine, and I think it finally got dropped during that song. That is the farthest the penny has made it into the show since I have been on Show Group!

After the last show, we did our final autograph and photo line, which lasted about two hours because we had a big crowd. And I have to say it: This year Camp Humphreys beat out the usual winners of the loudest crowd award, Camp Casey. Sorry to our friends at Casey, you’ll have to be louder next year because Humphreys took the cake this year! They were a blast!

DAY 9: Dec. 22, 2011
Day 9 started with frantic packing because I fell asleep on Wednesday night from pure exhaustion. I threw my bags together for a 6:30 a.m. bag drop, and got ready for departure. We were all so sad to leave, but I know everyone was also a little bit happy to be getting the opportunity to go home for Christmas. I love spending Christmas in Korea, but I did miss the last two at home, and I really wanted to see my family this year and spend a little time with them before (hopefully) taking my last tour next year.

This was definitely a successful holiday season on Show Group, and I hope that we achieved what we set out to do – to make people happy. Our main goal is to remind the servicemen and women that we are thinking about them back home, and there are so many people that love them and appreciate their sacrifices. I would like to say thank you to each and every one of you, from the bottom of my heart!

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