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A MUSICAL VOYAGE - Royal Australian Navy

A MUSICAL VOYAGE - Royal Australian Navy

- 180 – To utilise our

- 180 – To utilise our time we held an impromptu concert at Camp Baker the Australian compound. This was an ideal opportunity for us to run through the show and get in a rehearsal session. The Australians based in Kandahar were invited to attend and the show was greatly appreciated. Saturday, 5 April saw us arrive in Kabul. The weather was a lot cooler with snow on the mountain tops. The terrain was very mountainous. With the high altitude it was very noticeable even when breathing. Due to the high risk in the area, it was decided that we perform at the airport and that it was safer for the Australian troops to be transported to us rather than us to them. We performed in the Dutch recreation area which was a very homely building with a bar computers etc. The audience was made up of mainly Australians and Dutch with a few American troops. Our first official show went over extremely well. The placed rocked and we received a lot of positive feedback from our first Blues Brothers Show. Sunday 6 April saw another change to our itinerary. Instead of returning to Kandahar we were diverted to Tarin Kowt. Everyone was excited with the news. Tarin Kowt was home of most of the Aussie troops in Afghanistan. The base is in a valley surrounded by impressive mountains and the terrain was hilly with powder like dust. The weather was a lot hotter than Kabul. We rigged up on the back of a large semi-trailer. On Monday 7 April was one of the many highlights of our trip. In the morning we visited a Trade School which was set up by Australian troops who taught Afghan children trades in carpentry and plumbing. We spent a couple of hours mixing with the local kids and watching them at work. The Trade School is one of the success stories of the work which is being carried out in Afghanistan. A tour of the Tarin Kowt area and a weapons and vehicle demonstration was organised. It was very informative and gave us the opportunity to experience the life of a soldier. Our second show in Tarin Kowt started well however 10 minutes into the show we had a problem with the power. After a 40 minute delay and a lot of luck it was show on again. The show went over very well with a lot of complimentary feedback. It was hard to believe that our time in Afghanistan had come to an end. Everyone was so happy to have had the opportunity to visit Tarin Kowt. We had the opportunity to view the rugged terrain and the conditions that our fighting troops live in every day. After a refuel stop in Kandahar we left Afghan airspace and headed to our next destination. After arriving in our new destination it was all hands on deck. Time had got away and we only had one hour to set up and sound check. The base is the main airbase for the American Air Force. We played to approximately 2000 servicemen who loved the show. After the show we were invited to the Australian compound for a cocktail party. We departed AM the following day heading for Kuwait. Twenty minutes into our flight we had engine trouble and we had to return to our original destination. After a two hour delay we were back in the air heading for Kuwait. Returning to Kuwait was like coming home. We had spent so much time in and out of Kuwait and because we were able to keep our accommodation it was very comfortable returning there. It also marked the end of the first leg of our trip. We rigged up in fat alley which is the fast food area of Ali Al Salem airbase. We played to yet another very enthusiastic audience. Thursday 10 April saw the start of the second leg of the tour into Iraq. There was much excitement as we boarded the C130 for the 90 minute flight into Baghdad. We stayed at Camp Victory which houses nine of Saddam Hussein palaces and is the Headquarters for the American and Australian forces. The area is made up of man-made lakes surrounded by impressive buildings including the War Cabinet Room of the Iraqi Army. We were fortunate to tour the Palaces including the Al Faw Palace which is now the Headquarters of the American forces. A lot of the buildings have been affected by bombs in the initial attack in 2003. Another highlight was a tour of the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) training facility. This facility trains soldiers in identifying IED’s as well as responding and defusing these dangerous devises. Royal Australian Navy Band: A Musical Voyage

- 181 – Our first concert at Camp Victory was held on the main stage and was attended by Australian and Coalition forces. We had a set back when smoke started bellowing out of our PA amplifiers and effect desk. It turned out that the venues electricity had been wired incorrectly. It was looking very grim at one stage however we were fortunate that the Australian electrician was able to correct the wiring as well as replace the melted fuses. On the bright side we were lucky that the guitar amps etc were plugged into a different circuit. If all our electronics were plugged into the facility circuit we may have lost all of our amplifiers. After a 50 minute delay the concert got under way to an enthusiastic audience. On Friday 11 April we travelled to the International Zone in the heart of Baghdad. We were transported in a convoy of Armoured Personnel Carriers as well as two trucks which had our equipment in them. We travelled along Root Irish which is one of the most dangerous roads in the world. IED’s are often placed along this road and the adrenaline pumped when we were told to load our weapons. This trip gave us a good idea of what the soldiers go through every day of their tour. The professionalism they showed was commendable. The soldiers based in the International Zone are responsible for the security of the Australian Embassy in Iraq. The two concerts went over very well. We also had the opportunity to go onto the roof of the Bathe Party Headquarters, which is the building that Saddam’s Court hearing was heard. This gave us an opportunity to view the city of Baghdad. The following day we had the opportunity to tour the area. This was the first time on the tour that we had time to relax. We performed a second concert at Camp Victory on Aussie Island. This was a more relaxed performance and included a BBQ for all the Aussie troops. We left Baghdad on the 14 April and headed for our last destination Tallil. Tallil is in southern Iraq and is the home of the majority of our troops in Iraq. The venue was Memorial Hall, a large venue with a large stage and good facilities. We played two shows, the first for Australian troops and the following night was for the coalition forces. The venue was at capacity for both shows. Whilst in Tallil we visit the Ziggurat of Ur. These ancient ruins were 4000 years old and this city was the birth place of Abraham from the bible. To have this opportunity to tour such a historical place was a great way to finish our tour of duty. It was hard to believe that the tour had come to an end - 12 concerts with the civilian artists in 15 days and 13 Navy Band performances in all. To have the ABC film crew with us and to be part of Australian Story was indeed special. To be part of the first Navy Band to tour Afghanistan was something that we will never forget and is now in the history of the Royal Australian Navy Band. I would like to thank the touring party for their efforts and dedication. What an honour, to be given the opportunity to direct such a dedicated and talented group of musicians. TOUR TO AFGHANISTAN Article by Petty Officer Mark Ham Brisbane, September 2007: Playing the Bass Bone/Tenor Bone part in the production of Miss Saigon. The orchestra was crammed into a small space. I had no social life. I rarely saw my children. It was during this show that I contemplated a return to the Royal Australian Navy band. I mean, seriously. How hard could it be? Baghdad, April 2008: Rifle (loaded), full body armour (on), helmut and blast goggles (on), my 6-foot frame crammed into an ASLAV, sweat driping down my back and it’s not just due to my attire and salubrious surroundings. Along with 11 of my fellow reality-checked colleagues, I was about to travel THE most dangerous stretch of road in the world. Luckily, I’m in the lead vehicle. Suddenly that orchestra pit in Brisbane seemed like a wonderful place to be. Royal Australian Navy Band: A Musical Voyage

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