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Patriots Cheerleaders return from Persian Gulf tour

The New England Patriots Cheerleaders recently returned from a tour of the Persian Gulf in which they performed several shows for military personnel deployed in the support of the Global War on Terror. Here's a diary style account of their experiences during the recent tour in support of U.S.



]()Day 1 (6/9/05)**

Call time at Logan Airport: 6:45 am! We all have our carry-on, a box of team posters and a suitcase, which can't exceed 40lbs. (not an easy feat, but we pulled it off)! All five of us are psyched and ready to start our journey, but when we arrive at the desk, we are informed that our flight has a three-hour delay.

Good news… we are upgraded to business class! Bad news… because of the delay, we miss our connecting flight to Bahrain. We have no choice but to stay overnight in London and catch the next flight to Bahrain in the morning.

We are a little sad, because we know that will cause us to miss our first show in Bahrain. We're hoping to be able to make up for it at some point. Overall, it's been an interesting and challenging start to our trip!

P.S. We have been officially spoiled by business class seating. Even the food was great!

Days 2 & 3 (6/10/05 – 6/11/05)



]()Off to an early start in London today. We load all 15 of our suitcases and boxes onto the shuttle before realizing we needed to pay the man in pounds, not dollars. Tracy and Lori run inside to exchange some money, while Melinda, Ali and I sit aboard the shuttle with some unamused travelers. Oops!



]()After a day of traveling, we finally arrive in Bahrain around 8:00pm. Our escorts meet us at the airport and take us to the hotel. On the ride there, we take in all the sights of the city around us. The women in their burkhas, the huge white buildings and the palm trees make for breathtaking scenery. Lori is hoping to see a camel, but no luck yet.

We are able to sleep in our hotel rooms for a few hours, before we pack up and leave at 2:45am for our next flight. We are flown in a tiny plane (it only sits seven passengers) into UAE (United Arab Emirate). There we meet with the Blackhawk helicopter pilots, who fly us out to the Arabian Sea.

The helicopter ride is amazing! The sliding doors are left open and we're able to take pictures of the water and the boats below us. [


]()Finally, we land right on the flight deck of the USS Kearsarge.

We are welcomed by Captain Parent, XO Gregorski, Commodore Barfield and Senior Chief Nagle. (Melinda actually knows Captain Parent from home. He is her uncle's friend from college… small world!) We have a wonderful lunch with our new friends, followed by "meet and greets" with some of the crew members.

In the flight tower, we meet some very animated and fun people: "Prozac", "Hollywood" and "Jolly Bert Rancher". We have a great time with them and they help us come up with some call signs of our own. Everyone is so warm and enthusiastic. We are having a great time and can't wait to meet even more people tomorrow.

P.S. Melinda and I manage to blow a fuse within the first 20 minutes of being in our room!

Day 4 (6/12/05)



]()Today we leave the Kearsarge to visit another ship, the USS Ashland. This time, we travel by L-CAC (Landing Craft Air Cushion). The L-CAC is a Hovercraft that floats inches above the water. It rides over water and can go right up onto land. What an experience!

When we arrive at the Ashland, we meet our escort, Cindy, XO Zuhowski and Commander Boardman, along with lots of sailors and marines.



]()Finally, it's time for our first show. We are so excited to perform and wear our brand new uniforms for the first time! The show takes place right on the deck of the ship. It's over 100 degrees, but the audience is awesome and the view (we are completely surrounded by water) is stunning. We only hope they enjoy the show as much as we enjoy performing for them!

After the show, Cindy takes us to the mess deck for some ice cream sundaes before we meet with some more crew members. We visit lots of people at work, including the people in the Engine Room. We only spend 30 minutes in that 120-degree room and we think we're going to melt. Those guys deserve LOTS of credit for working down there everyday.

P.S. Now we understand why women in the military are required to keep their hair pinned up. Lori's curls are getting caught on everything on the ship. We are pretty sure she will be bald by the end of this trip.

Day 5 (6/13/05)



]()"Red Whale! Red Whale!" That is what we thought we woke up to on the loudspeaker this morning. Later, we are taken to the bridge of the ship and allowed to make our own some announcements over the intercom. We proceed to make the "red whale" announcement three times, before Cindy informed us that what we were actually supposed to say is "red well." Pretty embarrassing. People are confused and wonder why the New England girls have a southern twang.

We leave the Ashland and head to our next stop, the USS Ponce. We arrive, via L-CAC, and receive a very warm welcome from Captain Jacobs, XO Rob, CO Dave and Noel (our escort). Everyone is very friendly and make us feel right at home. They even leave Jolly Ranchers on our pillows.



]()We perform for the men and women aboard the Ponce that evening. They are a very spirited crowd and we love performing for them. Next, we have a tour of the ship and meet a lot of crewmembers, who are hard at work. It's another unforgettable day!

P.S. During the tour, Lori and Ali gave some poor sailor the worst haircut of all time. He was a very good sport about it.



]()Day 6 (6/14/05)**

Up at 5:45am today. We have breakfast with the sailors and marines and visit the gun posts. All too soon, it is time to say goodbye to our friends from the Ponce.

Next, we head back to the Kearsarge on the helicopter. We are getting very good at this flying stuff, I must say. We don't even need help getting our gear [


]()or seatbelts on anymore.

At the Kearsarge, we visit the DC (Damage Control) crew. It is already 115 degrees in the hangar as they help each of us into fire fighting equipment that's so heavy it's hard for us to stand up. All five of us then hold a fire hose and spray it off the side of the ship into the ocean. What a crazy experience!

We're scheduled to perform on the Kearsarge tonight. The stage and lights are set up right on the flight deck. The audience surrounds us on all sides, with lots of sailors and marines watching from the top deck. A helicopter flies by while we are dancing (Thanks to "Hollywood"). It is completely surreal. We feel so fortunate to be on this trip!



]()Day 7 (6/15/05)**

We wake up bright and early again this morning. We jump in the L-CAC and head over to Camp Patriot (how fitting), a naval base in Kuwait. When we arrive, we do an autograph signing and meet a lot of great people in a short amount of time!



]()At lunch we are serenaded by two soldiers from Hawaii, who play their guitars for us. Our escort performs an amazing, traditional hula dance. We feel very spoiled by the people in Kuwait. After all, we are there to thank them.

After a quick tour of the base, the helicopter picks us up to bring us back to the Kearsarge. We make a quick stop on the Normandy and drop some people off. It is nice to be able to see that ship and meet a few people, even if it is only for a few minutes. After that, we fly over the ocean and see pods of dolphins swimming and jumping through the water. We all have tears in our eyes. It's so beautiful!

Day 8 (6/16/05)



]()We are sad to leave our "home" on the Kearsarge this morning. We've spent so much time on that ship the people have begun to feel like family. After lots of hugs and pictures, we say goodbye and head to the USS Carl Vinson for our next visit.

When we arrive, we meet lots of great people, including Captain Donegan, and Asuppo. We quickly change for our matinee performance in the hangar. It is over 115 degrees where we perform. It is definitely our most difficult and hottest show, but the crowd is a lot of fun and don't seem to mind how sweaty we are by the end!

We sign autographs afterwards and visit as many sailors and marines as we can. Before we know it, it's time to leave. We are disappointed to go but excited for what comes next.

To leave the ship, we are catapulted off the carrier in a cod plane. We are told to fold our arms across chests, pull our knees in and keep our chins down. The plane accelerates from 0 to 190mph in less than four seconds and we are once again flying over the Arabian Sea. It is so exciting … better than any rollercoaster I've ever been on.

We make a quick stop in Kuwait to drop off soldiers who need to get back to camp, and then continue on to Bahrain. We arrive in Bahrain with just enough time to change and prepare for another meet and greet. There, we are fortunate to have the chance to meet a lot of the men and women that we missed earlier in the trip when our first show was canceled.



]()Day 9 (6/17/05)**

We wake up early in Bahrain today and head straight for the airport. We take another small plane to Camp As Sayliyah, in Qatar. We can't believe the heat when we step off the plane. We thought the ships were hot, but Qatar is even hotter. The temperature rises to 128 degrees!

We are welcomed by Sabrina (our escort) and Sergeant Vickers and taken to the chow hall (where I have the best Jell-o of all time). We spend time with some of the soldiers over lunch.

Next, we visit with Colonel Corbett who makes us feel very welcome and appreciated for visiting Camp As Sayliyah. He, along with everyone that we meet that day, is very enthusiastic about what they do. We learn a lot about what goes on on the Army bases. It is very interesting to talk to them and hear their perspective on things.

Many of the people that we met were stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan, but were visiting Qatar with their R & R Pass. An R&R pass gives that person four days to get away from where they are stationed, for a rest. After talking to those men and women, we could see why it is such a greatly appreciated program.

We perform our last show tonight and it is in an air-conditioned room! We couldn't believe it. The crowd consists of people from all branches of the military: Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. It is quite an experience.

P.S. While trying to get ready for our show tonight, we blew out two hairdryers, and had to borrow three adapters and two transformers. We can see why the crew cut is the haircut of choice around here.

Days 10 & 11 (6/18/19 –6/19/20)


We make some more visits around base today and meet a ton of people. We have a little down time after that, before we have to be at the airport. We are able to spend time at the pool on base. The water is surprisingly cool for such hot temperatures and it feels great to have some relief from the heat. Lori plays water volleyball most of the time, while Ali, Tracy, Melinda and I pass out on the lounge chairs.

Afterwards, we are able to go shopping at the PX for some souvenirs. We buy some jewelry, blankets, wine glasses, T-shirts and way too much more. As often happens on these trips, Melinda has to ask for an extra box to ship all of her purchases home. They don't fit in her luggage!

We drive down to the airport with our escorts. That ride, by the way, proves to be more frightening than any plane, helicopter or boat ride (including the cod) on the entire trip. Apparently there are no traffic lights or speed limits in Qatar. There are, however, lots of rotaries and pedestrians on main roads, making for a very frightening ride.

We all arrive at the airport in one piece and say goodbye to our friends from Camp As Sayliyah. Aside from a six-hour layover in London, we fly for about 13 hours over the next two days. We catch up on much-needed sleep and before we know it we're back in Boston.

It feels so good to see our families and friends waiting at the airport. We have memories from this trip that will last a lifetime. We are so excited to share our adventures from the trip with them and with our other family, the rest of the New England Patriots Cheerleaders!

Upon returning to the U.S., the Patriots Cheerleaders received the following letter thanking them for their support and professionalism:

*Dear Patriots Cheerleaders, *

I would like to extend another thank you from all the soldiers, marines and airman at Camp As Sayliyah for taking the time to come and visit the troops. I would like to commend you and all the ladies for your outstanding professionalism while you were here. As I go around the Camp, I hear nothing but good comments about your performance, staying late to sign the autographs and for the many visits to the different areas on the Camp. We truly appreciate the dedication and hard work that you, as the Director and Choreographer, and the Patriot Cheerleaders put into supporting the troops. I can honestly say that the New England Patriots are a top-notch organization that stands out among all others. Your stay here and the support you showed will not be forgotten. From everyone at Camp As Sayliyah, Please pass along our many thanks and again, a very big THANK YOU!

For a more photos of the New England Patriots Cheerleader's Persian Gulf Tour click here.

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