So I decided to buy a moleskin diary from Sydney airport and keep a daily diary on my trip to Iraq and Afghanistan with the Australian defense forces. You should see my writing, its terrible, so Ive transcribed it all for you to read here with some cool pictures I took while performing for two weeks in late October with Doc Neeson from the Angles, Entertainer Alexis Fishman, Comedienne Gary Bradbury and the Australian Army band Sydney. Enjoy…..
So it all happened really fast, got in really early from a European holiday with a stop over in Abu Dhabi and Singapore arriving 8 am Sydney time at Kingsford Smith. straight to training for my middle east adventure. after training a quick shoot over to channel 10 to record two episodes of ‘Friday Night Download’, a night in the airport hotel and then an early morning press conference before the trip of a lifetime. Right now eating crappy pasta at Sydney Airport while waiting for a delayed plane to Kuwait. Malaria tablets are giving me a headache. Met the crew today and they all seem really cool. Had a good talk to Doc Neeson before we boarded the plane for Kuwait with stop offs in male and Darwin in a 747 chartered by the army. after 30 hours of flying, driving and walking we arrived in Kuwait Wednesday morning. led by the Kuwaity army burning along the desert streets in a hotted up ute with an m16 mounted on the back. on the way tp the airbase we saw heaps of camels, amazing palatial residential buildings and white striped water towers. randomly decorating the land like icing on a big sand cake. Upon arriving o the base we were taken on a tour of the Aussie and American facilities, given some basic training, flak jackets, helmets and gas masks. It was so weird getting those things and made it more real for me. Although there was a certain seriousness about our briefings and training, they did become a tad monotonous, which led me to become the smart ass i am to a very serious teacher. I was thinking in my head that the army better get used to my bullshit, because there are no little push ups and toilet cleaning for this little TV host! No no!
We had a quick lesson on how to put on our gas masks with our eyes closed, backs to the wind while holding our breath. Full on!
You wouldn’t believe we’re in the US base, one of a few in Kuwait, it has everything! 24/7 Maccas, KFC, Subway, Donut House, Green Beans Coffee, 24/7 convenience store, 2 gyms, 2 rec halls, jewelery store, rug store, dry cleaning and even a Harley Davidson/Jeep dealership!
As if that wasn’t enough, on Thursdays there is also an outdoor market, where i picked up some cool presents for the family.
After more training we headed to the mess hall for lunch where i was worried i wouldn’t get in because my ID was packed in my bag and it hadn’t arrived from the airport. Luckily I got in with my passport!
They had an amazing food setup with everything you could want, salads, steak hamburgers, seafood – all free and as much as you could eat. I opted for cheese burgers and Baskin Robbins ice cream.
After even more training and getting setup in our dorms, we went to dinner when i had tacos and pecan pie – what a fat ass i am! Feeling guilty i decided to weigh myself at the gym and i was around 94 kg when normally im around 90.
I figured i would lose all that after this long trip… walking and carrying gear around everywhere.
After dinner was absolutely piss funny. A few of us went to karaoke, this was my first experience in the middle east entertaining troops. At first i got up to sing ‘hallelulah it’s raining men’ and after getting told to fuck off by the Americans troops, I sang Harry Belafontes ‘Banana Boat’ song, changing the words from ‘come mr tally man, tally me banana’ to ‘come mr taliban, check out my banana’. As if that wasnt bad enough, i also sang ‘land down under’ changing the words to ‘baghdad bunker’.
A few of the yanks in the crows whooped an screamed ‘ yeah you fucking rock dude’, at least I didn’t get beaten up.
Everyone went to sleep around 9.30 but i stayed up to call my mum and girlfriend from th aussie part of the base. Ended up getting locked in because i was there after 12. All good but, some army dude let me out.
Well i’ve been writing the last couple of pages while on the massive Hercules c13 enroute to Kanadhar to Afghanistan. This morning i got up at about 6am and went for coffee and big fat ass American doughnuts. Most of the gang were still asleep so i packed some of my stuff up and put it into storage for 3 days as i wouldnt need it all for the short trip to Afghanistan.
I went to the local embroiderer and bought a Chuck Norris patch and an ‘Operation Desert Storm ‘ patch for my army shirt.
Bought heaps of stuff from the market this morning, camel bone rings, silver charms, and twenty five out of cirulation iraqi bills with Sadams face on the front to give to friends back home.
We suited up to get on the Hercules c130 with all our protective gear on and while waiting on the tarmac, got a good look at some French built bomb proof hangers, that didnt look so bomb proof. They all had massive holes in them from US bombings during Sadams occupation of Kuwait.
They haven’t been fixed yet because the Kuwaitis are trying the get a refund from the French due to the fact they were supposed to be bomb proof. The Frenchies’ argument is that the bunker buster bombs werent invented until after they built the bullet proof bunkers.
5 hours of flying, cramped up next to eachother, not being able to communicate because of the noise, wasn’t as bad as i thought it would be. Loaded up in our combat gear, helmets and flack jackets as the plane landed in Kandahar. For some reason the theme music from ‘The A Team’ keeps going through my head. Everytime i look at Doc Neeson a new ‘Angels’ song pops into my head. Usually its ‘No Secrets’, ‘See Your Face’, ‘Show me the way to Marseille’, ‘Shadow Boxer’ or ‘Take a long line’.
Its kind of annoying me now. I might try to stop it.
We play in 2 hours at the Kandahar coallition forces base. Im looking forward to having sushi. Gary Bradbury, Alexis Fishman, Australian Army Band, Doc Neesons Angels and Mike Goldman – ready to rock!
Upon arriving at the base, it was dark and we were a bit late. We raced to the stage to setup.
Kind of got a little bit of a ‘your in the army now’ speech from the major in charge, which was fair enough because outside of these walls – insurgents would like to see us dead!
This may have rubbed the band the wrong way, because there was a little tanty over a set list and it did make me a little nervous because I had just found out a week earlier a rocket attack landed right where we were playing tonight. I think we did a great job on stage with the crowd except when I called the comedian George, rather than Gary Bradbury. He was great, extremely funny guy. Jokes about 72 virgins, the Taliban, terrorism, skippy, school, girls germs and he even made his saxophone have an orgasm.
Went on stage, i said to the crowd ‘the Aussies are here to rock this place like it has never been rocked before’ as i said that i realised that isn’t true after all the recent rocket attacks.
After the show Doc and i did a few interviews back to Australia. I did 2DayFM, Triple M, 4BC, 2SM, Hot Tomato and a few others. Wandered around the Aussies camp ‘Baker’ named after a digger who was lost in a tragic training accident. The local boys showed me around there little hangout which they called the Kandahar Surf Club featuring a painting of Bin Laden with writing under his face saying ‘Bin Laden Don’t Surf, Kandahar Surf Club’ (see picture).
Saw an amazing tank cemetery near the Afghanistan army base. Took an awesome photo of an Afghanistan dude on a bike. Saw the local firing range and played with some virtual reality guns.
On the way out of Kandahar, saw a smashed up plane that had been shot down. I think it was British.
Doc Neeson and i were lucky enough to ride in the cockpit of the c130 Hercules. it was one of the most amazing things i’ve ever done, as the plane took off and landed it fired rockets deterent flares and made evasive defensive manouvers. That made me feel like i was on one hell of a ride!
Next stop Tarinkowt or TK as it is known by the locals. This place was like landing on the moon, dead flat surrounded by mountains that rose hundreds of metres into the air. I could feel the Taliban watching me from their sneaky little hillside hide outs.
Upon arrival we had a briefing in a makeshift bunker that looked like something out of an old war movie. In some scary surreal way I could visualize us it shaking at any minute with dust flying everywhere after a nearby explosion. The briefing was conducted by a crusty old war dog who played us an array of different sirens to look out for when various situations were happening in or around the base. One siren to look out for was when Maximus fired. A Panzer tank with a firing range of fifty kilometers. The amount of noise and turbulance this high tech gun made when fired required a warning to all in the vicinity so the would not poo poo their pants. We were welcomed to TK by this top secret German made Dutch owned gun that was fired 5 times when we arrived. Full on! Tried to get a photo, but was warned of the top secret classification and us civilians weren’t allowed near it.
I was first on stage, stepping into a deep sad blackness that surrounded the base not just from the evil little Talibs in the hills spying on us, but felt by the recent death of trooper Pierce by an IED (roadside bomb). I knew this had to be a great show because more than anywhere in Afghanistan the Aussie troops needed to be entertained and most of all they needed to know that they were appreciated by the people back home. So I was pumped. Did my usual jokes that worked well, wining on about the fluro blue bullet proof vest that I was given and how it was advertising the fact that If shot by the enemy I was worth double points. The real hit was when I got this dutch commander up on stage to sing some kooky song in his native tongue. Met some Aussie SAS guys after the show who were a real laugh, more like a bunch of surfies on tour than a team of crack commandos. Spoke to Private Luke Worsley and some of his buddies for a good hour. He was such a great guy and really appreciated the fact we were there to put on a show for the troops. We chatted about the work that they were doing to help rebuild Afghanistan and had a good winge about the fact the only beer we were allowed to drink was non alcoholic. Was so sorry to hear of his passing, but it only makes things even more real to me that these men are risking their lives every day to help rebuild Afghanistan. Is it worthwhile? Do the troops think that they should be there? Do they think that they’re ACTUALLY doing something for the country? Unanimously from all I met, its a yes. Did they want Kevin Rudd to pull them out? Overwhelmingly its a no. What do I reckon? Well I can only go by what the brave men and women on the ground in this country tell me.
The next day we had some time to wander around the base. Saw an Aussie made Bushranger troop carrier, better than a Hummer because it is built to survive a roadside bomb. Saw one that had Its wheel blown off just the day before and everyone survived. Its a real shame that Trooper David Pearce was not driving one of them a few weeks earlier when his hummer was hit. One of the solders in the vehicle with him when they were hit told me that he absorbed the blast from the bomb saving all occupants. Went to the TK trade school where the Aussies have set up courses for locals on basic building skills. This really was a great way to help the local people on a micro economic scale. I really believe that this kind of work is helping the Afghani people build a better trust of the peacekeeping force and will see them cooperate in eradicating the violence that has plagued their country for so long. Got talking to in scattered english, with the help of a translator to an Aghani kid who told me if he wasnt doing this course he would be fighting with the Taliban. Since working with the Australians he has gained a better understanding as to why we are there and what were trying to do for his people. Lets hope he spreads the word.
The flight from Tarin Kout to Kabul took about an hour. On arrivalÂ tbc…..