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A MUSICAL VOYAGE - Royal Australian Navy

A MUSICAL VOYAGE - Royal Australian Navy

- 118 – Again, like

- 118 – Again, like yesterday, this was a very different way to spend Christmas. We began with opening our Christmas presents on the roof, and yes, we had our very own Santa weapon (Petty Officer Kara Williams) complete with weapon to hand out our presents. Some of us got some interesting and hilarious gifts from each other. It was nice to be able to take some time out and give and receive some Chrissie presents. After the present opening we headed off to church where, with our fine voices, Santa hats and headbands with Tinsel on top, we were church choir! It was a nice service and a time to reflect on the day and remember our families back home. It was quite different sitting in church and having Blackhawk’s fly past the window; not something you see everyday. After quick calls back to Oz, we loaded the jazz group gear onto a truck and headed down to the main palace where lunch with just the Aussie’s was to be served. The function room was absolutely amazing and it was a feast fit for King’s and Queen’s with everything you could imagine from the Christmas ham to prawns and for desert Christmas cake and ice-cream. Santa made another visit, this time looking a little different (he was wearing a pistol) and of course his sack was full of presents. The jazz group did a wonderful job presenting some jazzy carols. Something we didn’t expect and that I didn’t even realize was that Chief of Defence Force (CDF), General Cosgrove, was serving the corn. I went straight passed him, said ‘yeah, I’ll have a bit of that corn, ta’!!! After lunch General Cosgrove made some presentations to the band and awarded medals to some other personnel. He was very much appreciative of the work that we had been doing to support our troops. Our troops spend around six months away whilst our coalition friends, the Americans, do around 12 months. Having the RAN Band in the Middle East allowed the troops some time to relax and, for the time being, forget what they’re actually here to do. After lunch we had a quick tour of the palace and what a palace it is! Just in the entry alone is a huge chandelier that’s nine metres wide. It’s been an experience showering in marble showers and using marble toilets, however, they’re still a little behind the times here and the pipe system is yet to learn how to cope with toilet paper! This particular palace has about 17 smaller palaces around a huge man made lake. There used to be masses of bush land around the palace where wild animals from India and all over the world roamed, so that the ‘royals’ could do a spot of hunting whenever they felt like it. Carl, Shaun and Andrew had a dip in the ‘royal’ pool, crazy stuff as it was bloody freezing! This part of the trip has been an amazing experience one which will not be forgotten. In the afternoon jazz group played for the Aussie’s again at the headquarters and in the evening we gave another concert (the best of the tour). We gave another three hour show in freezing cold conditions with about 300 people in the audience. The Force Protection brief given immediately before the concert started certainly reminded us of where we were! A few members of the 5 th Corps US Army band came and played a few charts with us. This band has been posted to Camp Victory since June 03 and don’t know when they’re going home. As our time at Camp Victory came to an end we went to sleep with some amazing memories. Boxing Day had us on the move early again, once again all in CBA. We headed for the airport for our flight out. This time Kirstin and I weren’t missing any of the fun and again we had a very interesting experience during the flight. Once on the ground in Kuwait we handed back our weapons, CBA and webbing (much to the disappointment of the Chief who loved every minute of our time at Camp Victory). We boarded again and continued our journey to Camp Andy our next destination. Again, the scenery was very different and interesting; one thing we did enjoy was the warmer weather! Again, like many other bases we’ve visited Camp Andy was predominantly American troops. This base can only be described as ‘tent city’. As far as the eye can see there are tents and one word that will sum it up is ‘Mash’; we felt like we were in an episode of Mash. In the middle of the camp was a place called the Wagon Wheel, which was the hub of entertainment once the sun had set. This camp permits a beer issue of three cans per day, unit permitting and we loved to sit back after our gigs relaxing and having a few beers or vodka’s. The CO and XO of the Aussie headquarters here went out of there way to make our stay as enjoyable as they could, which was very much appreciated. Our gigs at Camp Andy were great; we even had some rises built in a few hours for our first concert! Royal Australian Navy Band: A Musical Voyage

- 119 – The Aussie’s again were great supporters and although the American’s told us how much they enjoyed our concert it was extremely hard to tell during the show; they just sat back and listened and none of them got up and danced. During our few days at Camp Andy we had a little bit of time off to sleep, and do a little bit of shopping at the PX store. Our shopping day into the local town was cancelled due to troubles with the government trying to organize our visas. Some of the Aussie’s took orders and went in for us and we got perfume, DVD’s, remote cars and lots of other goodies. We went on a tour of the base and saw some amazing things, the jobs some people do are just crazy. We saw the bomb squad, F15 and 16 fighter jets, British Tornado’s, the trusty old C130’s and the US C17’s. All in all it was a very interesting day and the British guys put on an awesome fly past for us. After this the jazz group and the acoustic version of Kintama set up and we had a pizza and volley ball night. Our time here in the Middle East is rapidly coming to an end and tomorrow we fly out for a few more concerts (can’t say too much about that but HMAS Melbourne received some Christmas cheer from us as well.). Our last day started early (again) with cleaning the equipment. We say goodbye to our Aussie troops and head for Dubai. Once in Dubai we had a few hours before our flight to Sydney departed. All of us headed into town for some retail therapy………. All in all I think we can say that we’ve had one of the best experiences of our lives and careers. It’s been an amazing experience and we’ve made friendships and memories that will never be forgotten. The guys of Kintama did an awesome job and were brilliant, Angry was fantastic and might I say is the massager from heaven (and the other girls will attest to this). Our mover for the trip, Perryn, did a wonderful job and made our travels go smoothly; it didn’t take him long to settle into our group! Thanks must also go to our Chief, Andrew Stapleton, who had a lot of running around to do, making sure that we were all informed of what was going on throughout the trip. To our boss, Lieutenant Commander Anderson, thanks for your hard work in getting us here, you picked an awesome bunch of people. Lastly, to Lieutenant Colonel Reynolds, the Commanding Officer for Tour de Force; this has been amazing, thank-you for giving us the opportunity to play for our troops—we certainly won’t be forgetting this anytime soon. ONE OF THE MOST FRIGHTENING EXPERIENCES OF MY LIFE Article by Able Seaman Grant Metcalfe The deployment of ten personnel from Baghdad International Airport to the Security Detachment in Baghdad City was one of the most inspiring and frightening experiences of my life. Upon arriving at Baghdad International Airport we were greeted by soldiers from the Security Detachment in two Australian Light Armoured Vehicles (ASLAVs). We then loaded all music equipment onto a Unimog truck. Movement orders were then issued in an extremely serious, matter of fact tone. It was then that it hit me that we were going into Baghdad. Picture it; eight bandies in Desert Cams with Combat Body Armour, Kevlar Helmets, full Patrol Webbing and a Steyr rifle at the load state, stepping into the rear of an ASLAV—very surreal. Joining us for this leg of the tour was Angry Anderson and the tour Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Reynolds. Our convoy travelled into the centre of Baghdad. The exact location is secret; however, it is certainly in one of the main areas of security concern in Baghdad. The trip was hairraising. ASLAVs travel through the city at top speed with soldiers aiming the 1.05mm turret gun and sighters to each side—120kmph in an ASLAV is fast. We arrived safely and disembarked. The soldiers live in a heavily fortified building with no windows or doors; basically, it’s a gutted high rise that provided ample viewing aspects for force protection duties. The scenes in front of our eyes of ASLAVs, soldiers, 50 cal weapons in sandbag bunkers was straight out of a movie, except for one thing; it was very, very serious and most definitely the real thing. Our duty for the evening was to perform two gigs to two groups of soldiers on watch rotation. That sounded easy enough but before any of that we had to receive more safety and security briefs, establish our sleeping arrangements, put together our racks and try to come to terms with our surrounding. Royal Australian Navy Band: A Musical Voyage

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