'We are cleared for take off Cowboys" could be heard across all 68+ feet of the cargo area this morning on a US Air Force C17 as the four mighty Pratt and Whitney engines, each delivering over 40 thousand pounds of thrust came to full power. With a tail that towers 55' off the runway and the amazing power of those engines it, was only a matter of seconds before the 'Globemaster' lifted off and rocketed into the night sky. "Now that's what I call a Cowboy Cadillac" said Annie Bianco Ellett on her headset, as she witnessed first hand up in the cockpits jump seat the pure elegance of this state-of-art US Air Force heavy lifter.
Hours later with the sun peaking up over a rugged mountain range, the US Air Force had the Cowboys and Girls back on the ground in another country, another time zone, but with the same mission; find US Armed Forces Members and Rope in Resiliency. After stacking the teams protective body Armour, organizing the mounds of Wrangler give-a-ways and squaring away each others personal kits it was obvious to our military hosts at this Air Field that the Wrangler Team was a well organized touring group that worked as a team. "If it hadn't been for the Wrangler clothes logo'd up with Armed Forces Entertainment patches and Cowboy hats I would have sworn I was watching a infantry chalk PAX/TRANX" said a Army corporal, who like so many of America's young men and women was on his second deployment to this mountainous region.
"Accomplishing more before breakfast, then most people get done in a day" said Jeff Chadwick, manager of western events for the Wrangler Corporation while walking down a rocky path on the way to breakfast at a small tent that was chuck full of US Army Soldiers "Heck I'd say in a week is more like it." he added.
Today, there was a get up'n go in the teams movements and for good reason, in less then an hour... they'd be whisked up into these formidable mountains that surround this undisclosed forward operating base to a camp like so many that found it's name the, story of one of America's fallen heroes.
If he were to have spoken the words they would have been simple: grab and go gang, it's time to fly, but instead Wrangler National Patriot Tour team leader Robi Powers, who organized the team from both this year and last and who volunteers to lead these trips through his nonprofit American300 for Armed Forces Entertainment each month simply nodded his head, the Wrangler Cowboys, Girls and Country Music Star were no longer a loosely wrangled group of Americans, they'd become a band of brothers and sisters, they'd become family.
"I'm excited mixed with a little scared" said Maegan Ridley, Ms Wrangler National Patriot and former Ms Rodeo America to veteran tour goer and endorsee of the Wrangler National Patriot line Pro Kaycee Feild "look at what we're gonna fly over" she added to his ear as the two lead the team to the Blackhawks that would be their next ride. "I'm with ya on those mountains being big' said Kaycee, they look like all of the Wasatch's back home in Utah and then some, but these Army Blackhawk crews are amazing, last year we were in these things 3-4 times a day, for days on end and I've seen what they can do... you're gonna love it" he added with the soft reassurance that you'd expect to hear from a big brother.
With a safety briefing that lasted a minute and saddling up which took about the same it was the Army's turn to carry the 'cowboy hats' to their days final destination, but not without taking advantage of a live fire exercises for their door gunners along the way. "I wouldn't mess with us" said Master Sergeant Roach the teams public affairs temporary duty assignment videographer from the Pennsylvania Air National Guard as the UH60's eased off the power and made clear their intention to land.
"That was just beautiful" said Lucas Hoge as he helped unload the teams gear and move away from the pad. Once clear of the rotorwash he opened the lid to his custom AcePro Medal of Honor guitar to ensure that it had made another journey unscathed and more importantly was ready to receive the tender loving care of pick and fingers, later this day on another small operating camp, in a land so far from his home of Nashville, TN " she's ready to sing and so am I" he added with the smile of a care giver, who knows the day will bring happiness to so many.
The Armed Forces Entertainment Wrangler National Patriot Tour has left its prints in so many countries, to be doing so in yet another foreign land should come as no surprise to our followers, what might however, is that for the first time the teams one and only World Champion would get her crack at learning exactly what goes into addressing a target, not with her usual custom pearl grip inlaid pistol, but through the high tech scope of a US Army issue M4. Outlaw Annie Bianco was to experience what hundreds of thousands of Army soldiers have; zeroing her weapon at close range and then engaging paper targets.
"Sgt Lamb was was such a great coach" said Annie, who, while a Champion with pistols, is a relative new comer to the world of military rifle marksmanship, despite having a brother who has been in the US Army for the majority of his adult life " I wish my brother could have seen Sgt Lamb take me through the drills this afternoon, I know he would have been proud... of both of us."
As sunset approached Sgt Lamb, a member of the Cav Scouts, commented on the sandblasting winds coming down onto the plateau "These mountains create their own weather... sunny and pleasant one hour, cloudy and 50 mph winds the next...it's the norm here."
With a Camp elevation that would make the city of Denver, Colorado smile, the Cowboys once again made ready their ropes, Wrangler 'thank you' gifts and one Medal of Honor Guitar for an evening of mile high country fun. "Look at who's here tonight" breathed Powers to the team as he pointed out to mountain warfare capable specialists from Italy, Spain and Slovenia, who were all drifting in on the various paths to the Camps newly finished commons area. "Heck there's even to British Army Specialists with us tonight, get ready for a NATO Coalition Forces Cowboy Coral gang"
And as if on cue, Lucas Hoge grab'd Medal of Honor the custom painted AcePro guitar and let her fill the thin air "they might not understand the lyrics completely, but I know they'll feel it in their hearts he whispered to Kaycee, and that they did!
Reach out to a friend and have them saddle up with us as the tour continues... from all of us 'over here' Good Nite