KABUL, Afghanistan --
More than 600 military men and women stood for hours in the cold Dec. 20 for a live USO show highlighted by Kid Rock and Robin Williams performances at Camp Phoenix, Kabul, Afghanistan.
Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Afghanistan in the early evening after a delay en route from Iraq, bringing Williams, Kid Rock, Lance Armstrong, comedian Lewis Black and Rachel Smith, the reigning Miss U.S.A. The crowd of military men and women from the United States and other coalition nations such as Mongolia, Germany, and more began arriving at Camp Phoenix’ Patriot Square about three hours before the 9 p.m. show started. They eagerly waited in the snow until Mullen introduced Smith to the crowd.
“I can’t believe they’re coming here – especially in this weather,” Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew K. Stanley, an Oklahoma City native deployed to Camp Eggers, also in Kabul, said as he waited for the show to begin.
Kid Rock was the sole singer of the group, although Robin Williams, who performed before Kid Rock, joined him at the end of the show and played the harmonica along with Rock’s acoustic guitar show.
Kid Rock had the crowd cheering and singing along to his hit songs and to his playing of classic rock and country music. “What if Kid Rock was president,” he asked toward the end of his performance. With that he started singing a song by the same title.
“I’m gonna sign off like this,” Kid Rock said as he was finishing up. “I’m so proud to be here in Afghanistan for some of the finest American men and women like you.”
Williams, who was on his fourth stop in Afghanistan, drew cheers and laughs throughout his show.
The comedian opened his sketch telling the crowd they had arrived two hours before the show, “because we were looking for Santa Claus. We found him!” That was the cue for an inflatable Santa Clause on stage to be inflated, but it didn’t quite work as planned, so he used the situation to improvise as he has become famous doing.
He also got loud laughs when he commented on the new military uniforms. “The new Army camouflage – it’s digital,” he said. “So you can disappear in front of a computer.”
The crowd showed their appreciation with their cheers and applause.
“This is my 4th deployment, and this is probably the biggest show as far as performers – biggest named performers,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Kelly M. Skapik, an Akron, Ohio, native deployed to Afghanistan from McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas.
A few embedded training team Marines from Camp Blackhorse, a few miles away, made there way to Camp Phoenix to enjoy the entertainment with the others.
“We just came for the show,” said Gunnery Sgt. Shawn R. Workman, a Seth, West Va. native and ETT mentor in Afghanistan from Combat Assault Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, in Okinawa, Japan. “It’s a good thing, as long as their supporting us.”
“I really appreciate their tour,” added Spc. Michael C. Gray, a Spartanburg, S.C., native and National Guardsman assigned to security forces for Task Force Phoenix. “It’s the first time they’ve done a show (here) as far as I know.”
All the performers made sure to let the audience know that they supported the troops, which is why they came to Kabul.
“I wouldn’t do it for anybody but you,” said Black during his performance.
“You’re the heroes. You’re the true American heroes,” said Armstrong, seven-time Tour de France champion.
Williams left the stage telling the crowd, “I want to say one thing, you rock!”
After the show the stars gathered in the dining facility and had group photos taken with military men and women, and Mullen stayed outside greeting troops. He handed coins to those he met, and wished them a “Merry Christmas.”