Everest Expedition Leaders Head to U.S. Military Bases in Middle East

Undisclosed Areas of Operation Southwest Asia -  DoD Armed Forces Entertainment office and American300.org are teaming up once again to present Everest - a professional edu-tainment tour featuring Himalayan expedition leaders: Tonya Clement, Chris Klinke, Eric Meyer, M.D. and Tom Whittaker.  

Tom Whittaker wasn’t the first person to scale and stand on the summit of Mount Everest, but he was the first to do it with one leg!  On May 27th 1998, the amputee climber, broke through boundaries established by the able-bodied climbing community, by planting his foot on the highest mountain in the world.  Twenty years later, dozens of climbers with disabilities have now accomplished what Whittaker was told couldn’t be done! Whittaker opened the door to the highest summit in the world. 

In 1975, Japanese climber Junko Tabei, became the first women to summit Everest, while at the same time, Tonya Clement, was entering her junior year in high school.  Clement didn’t start climbing seriously until she was in her 30‘s.  On May 19th, 2006 she reached the summit of Everest.  On that day, she became the 20th female to follow Tabei’s efforts, but not here route.  Clement’s path to the summit, utilized the far more difficult North Ridge making her the 5th out of 9 women worldwide to conquer Everest via the North Ridge. 

For climbers Chris Klinke and doctor Eric Meyer, Everest was a summit previously mastered when they found themselves in the death zone above 8,000 meters on K2 in 2008.  The treacherous, second tallest mountain in the world, had given way to a near perfect day.  The two climbers along with an international group of teammates where staged at Camp 4, at 8,300 meters. It was summit day! But due to a breakdown in both communication, and follow through on promises made amongst the various mountain teams, things were not going well.   After months away from home, and tens of thousands of dollars spent attempting to reach the summit, Klinke and Meyer (along with others on their team) had to make a choice - ascend or wait for another day.    

In the end, they chose to stand down and wait things out at Camp 4.  In retrospect, their decision saved their lives.  Over the next 48 hours, K2 experienced its deadliest days, with 11 climbers falling or freezing to death. 

With little fanfare and even less time behind microphones, American300’s team of expeditionary climbers will spend the majority of their time in operational areas far from big stage lights of standard entertainment tours. These special guests, and their stories of never quitting will spend their time with armed forces units serving in remote and isolated locations. 

Serving as team leaders for the climbers are veterans: Rob Powers, the founder of American300.org and John Bates, a retired Marine Corps Colonel and 3 time Purple Heart recipient.  “These climbers have incredible resilient stories to share, life experience that parallel that of military service in many ways,” says Bates, adding, “American300 guests have been doing these types of tours since 2006 when Powers started the project, and I know the Troops benefit enormously from these exchanges, because I’m one of them.”

Sharing resilient messaging that is relevant and relatable is a primary goal of American300 Tours, but often times the nonprofit’s guests also bring subject matter expertise to the units they interact with.   “As expedition leader, the number one goal is to get everyone home safely and that requires making hard decisions at times,” says Klinke, adding, “ I remind myself constantly that 90% of the deaths that occur on expeditions can be traced back to poor leadership decisions.” 

Whether sharing inspirational, motivational resiliency messages or adding new perspectives to leadership development, American300 Tours does not fall under the category of entertainment with the DoD, rather it’s due to the requests for this type of programming that American300 Tours teams up with the DoD’s entertainment powerhouse.   

“We love working with Armed Forces Entertainment, they allow our tours to go out and share jaw dropping real life stories and listen to the same,” says Robi Powers, adding, “by connecting and sharing, we all learn together how to deal with life’s challenges, learn how to make better choices - it’s not rocket science, it’s just a proven mentoring program that the Troops love and benefit enormously from.” 


The Department of Defense refers to American300 type programming as Edu-tainment reflecting the educational development opportunities that these tours bring to military bases. Wounded Warrior, John Bates, explains it best: “Troops love meeting and sharing with relevant and relatable guests – American300 programs have helped thousands make better sense of life’s struggles while casting a light on making the impossible - possible.” 

For more on American300 visit: www.American300.org 

About Armed Forces Entertainment


Armed Forces Entertainment is the official Department of Defense agency for providing entertainment to U.S. military personnel serving overseas, with priority given to those in contingency operations and at remote and isolated locations. The Department of the Air Force is the executive agent of Armed Forces Entertainment. Founded in 1951, Armed Forces Entertainment brings a touch of home to more than 500,000 troops annually, embracing the best of Americana that stretches across all genres of entertainment. For more information visit www.armedforcesentertainment.com ,  Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.

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