The Wrangler National Patriot team landed at a remote isolated air base in the 'shadows of 20 thousand foot peaks' with beauty on the horizon and a US Air Force staff that greeted the team with smiles and open arms, it didn't take but seconds for the Team to realize that the beauty of the mountains was going to be surpassed by the professionalism of the staff here, in warming the spirits of the Team and the Troops that they'd come in contact with. With final cargo transferred from aircraft to ground transport, the Cowboys and girls we're whisked away to morning chow... local time was 0530.
After western omelets and dark cowboy coffee, the group was given a few hours 'off the trail' to shake the desert sand out of their gear and do some laundry. The next stop - hundreds of joint service (all branches of service) troops enjoying the camaraderie of a Western BBQ. Lead by a team of 'master chefs' a/k/a Chief Masters... out came the ropes, steer heads, Wrangler National Patriot Bandanas, Burgers and fun.
As soon as the last hamburger was wolfed down the Goodfather's of the Grill snatched up Annie Bianco Ellett and Maegan Ridley for a Team Photo. Not only had the Sr NCO's of the Base processed over a thousand burgers and brats through their Chuckwagon, but they'd nailed the final spike in the resiliency rail that puts leaders ever out in front of our new recruits in the 'gold rush' to keep our force strong and on the top spot.
'Spurs on' and 'knees dug' in was the attitude the Wrangler Cowboys and girls have for mission briefings, and the local command took the team for an extended 8 second ride through the details of this bases history, host nation partnership that no one wanted to end.
"We operate this base on a 'Need To Share' message" explained Captain Clyde and Major Katz, the Teams Command Briefing Staff from the Air Force, when explaining the role that the resident staff here plays in the larger sustainability mission. The base sources as many sustainability products locally and this key ingredient isn't lost on the host nation, in turn base commanders and local government officials here have developed a working relationship based on a level of trust that would make any Cowboy a World Champion... if they could just get their 'draw' to work with them in partnership the 'same' every weekend.
With 2 hours to spare after the briefing came to an end, Lucas Hoge the teams one and only country music star suggested that 'maybe' he, Kaycee Feilds and Robi could give a try at some archery practice (Lucas, had spotted a 3D archery range during a quick orientation drive the services staff had given the team after breakfast) No sooner were the words spoken then bows materialized and lines were drawn in the rocky dirt... Kaycee, Wing Commander Col. Sones and Major Roberts would represent the PRCA and Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, while Lucas, Robi Powers and Commander Col Zorzi would representing the Pro Bull Riders - PBR Tour.
Arrow after arrow flew and bulleyes fell to the PRCA Team who cleaned up in the 3 course contest 36 -19. With hat in hand, Lucas and Robi
along with Col Zorzi congratulated the PRCA squad... and talk of a rematch mixed with the cool southerly breeze that had enveloped the base... dropping temperatures by more then 15 degrees, the result of the cooling effect that the snow topped mountains to the south have on this base each and every day of spring and summer.
With Kaycee belting out a Cowboys Champion Yehaaaaa all the way to the Morale Entertainment Center, the Cowboys reunited with World Champion Annie who along with Jeff and MSgt Roach the teams public affairs officer had bags already packed for the teams next tour stop deployment as well as the evenings 'Western 'Rocky' Mountain Hoe-down.
Jeff Chadwick gave the 'Chutes Open' let's go rodeo call and within seconds Troops had 'turned out' to the various fun activity zones throughout the 'arena'. Roping, talking, signing autographs and laughter all mixed into an act that would have entertained the most veteran western events fans. Topping it all off, Lucas Hoge lasso'd a squad of Marines fresh off the trails of war to sing his song "Medal of Honor" with him on the eve of Memorial Day (observed) here in the Middle East.
"This resiliency one on one troop 'tour' we do during the day, followed by evening Ground Hog Day Disposal (as Robi calls it) that we've got going on, is such a home run" said Jeff Chadwick, manager of Western Events for Wrangler Corporation " I just wish my boss, Joe (Hertz), our General Manager of Wrangler was here to see it, as a combat purple heart recipient of the Vietnam War... I think it would make his heart sing" added Chadwick.
The 'evening' came to a close with Troops and Cowboys eyes glued to the final 20 laps of the Indy500, which was being piped onto the base by Armed Forces Network, the Department of Defense godsend television service that allows troops to stay up to date with the latest happenings in the 'world'. As the race came to a close, cries of sorrow could be heard coming from the Troops, Robi Powers, the Armed Forces Entertainment Wrangler National Patriot Tour leader was smiling.... not as a result of Hildebrands demise, but from the quite comfort a team leader and founder of American300 gets from knowing that another day of successful resiliency minded troop touring was over... and that the Troops cries... where the result of witnessing the lose of a sporting event... not a fellow service member on this evening that had now become the morning of Memorial Day here in the Middle East.