USO hosts celebrity guests at Kandahar international airport

21 Dec 2001 | Sgt Thomas Michael Corcoran 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit

For the first time ever, the United Service Organizations has found its way into Afghanistan to entertain the members of Task Force-58 Dec. 21.

Las Vegas entertainment icon Wayne Newton, comedian Drew Carey, country music singer Neil McCoy and two Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders flew into Kandahar International Airport to spread some holiday cheer to the servicemembers securing the airport.

The performers were greeted by members of all services as they made their way from the C-17 Globemaster jet on the bomb-cratered runway to the entrance of the airport.  They signed autographs on everything from cardboard to uniforms.  

Cpl. Dale Payer, 26th MEU radio operator, received his autographs on cardboard.  He said it wasn't very hard to push his way through the friendly crowd to the celebrities.

After the celebrities signed autographs and talked to servicemembers, they formed a stage in one of the foyers of the airport and began the performances. 

"It was a great way to relax and take your mind off everything for a while," said Payer.  "Theres a lot going on right now and a break was great, and who knows it might be the last one we get for a while."

Drew Carey said that the servicemembers seemed to like it.  He thinks it puts a break in their routine.

"A lot of people don't realize how professional these young people are," said Carey.  "They are in charge of millions of dollars of equipment, and there are young people the same age back home flipping burgers."

Wayne Newton explained that it is not only important for the performers to bring the message back to the American public, but it is also important to bring the American public's positive message to the Marines and servicemembers here.

"They need to know that we support them and know what they're doing," said Newton.  "What we don't need is for them to wonder if we appreciate, notice and support what they're doing."

Retired General John H. Tillelli, Jr., USO president, said there are four reasons the USO supports the troops.

He said the number one reason is to entertain the troops.  Second, is to improve morale.  Third, to show the support of America.  And last, it gives the celebrities a chance to go back to America and report on the morale of our servicemembers.

"All Americans and those who served before are proud of the Marines and servicemembers here," said Tillelli.  "We're just trying to bring a touch of home out here."
One of the spectators, Cpl. Joshua Deets, said "You would think that the cheerleaders would have gathered the biggest crowd from the servicemembers out in Kandahar, but -- wrong. I think the highlight was Drew Carey.

Although, Deets did appreciate the cheerleaders' performance stating,  "Don't get me wrong, the ladies were nice, but who would have guessed that it took coming to Kandahar airport to meet the "Who's Line Is It" master Drew Carey?"

After the show it was back to work for all the servicemembers at Kandahar international airport.

"We have daily patrols and watches, to keep the airfield safe and at a working level," said Payer.  "We can't take our guard down at Christmas, because that would be a great time for a terrorist attack."

26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable)