Ross & Craig’s USO Tour – Q&A With Det
Earlier this offseason, General Martin Dempsey – Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – invited Nationals pitchers Ross Detwiler and Craig Stammen on the annual USO holiday tour. While abroad, Detwiler and Stammen have sent us daily journal entries detailing the events of their trip. In the interest of security, these updates – including dates and locations – are delayed several days before their release.
Curly W Live: There were a lot of unknowns heading into your trip. How did the journey start?
Ross Detwiler: We were headed to the Air Force base and I had no idea what to expect. I knew we were going to be flying on the Blues and Whites, but other than that, I really had no expectations. We had a 6.5-hour plane ride over to Ireland where we stopped to refuel and had some breakfast. We got to go to the duty free shop there and then we got back on the plane another for another 6.5 hours to Bahrain.
CWL: When did they first make you aware of your destination?
RD: Once we were on the plane they told us we were going to Bahrain. That’s when we knew where our first stop was.
CWL: Describe your transportation – we hear it’s the same type of plane as Air Force Two?
RD: I actually haven’t seen the front of the plane yet, where most of the military travels, but there’s a big office right in the middle, which is General Dempsey’s quarters. In the back, there are two tables set up with two seats on either side of the table, which is where the higher-ranking officials sit – it’s like a little war room for them. Then there is a partition, and that’s where we’re sitting. We have two seats on either side and I’ve been snuggled up next to Stammen so far (laughing). We had assigned seating when we got on.
CWL: You’ve got country musician Kelly Pickler on this trip, who is the only entertainer who has done USO tours in the past. As the veteran of the group, has she given you any pointers?
RD: Each trip goes to different countries and different bases, so that’s what makes it different for her (Pickler), but she kind of told us what to expect. She’s really been a big help, because going in we had no idea what to expect, we didn’t know what the morale of the troops was going to be. We’re here to help that, but you don’t know how good or how bad it is. The two stops we’ve had so far, the morale’s been great, they’ve been really into the shows, and it’s actually been a whole lot of fun.
CWL: So what exactly does one of your shows entail?
RD: Our comedian, Iliza Shlesinger, goes first. She’s hilarious – she goes for about 20-25 minutes and the troops are just cracking up the whole time she’s up there, having a great time. And then Craig, Matt Hendricks and I get up there and we just thank them for what they’re going through here. It’s tough to know what to say to them, because they’re making the ultimate sacrifice to let us live the lives that we’re living. So we kind of take the show down a little bit, then Kellie comes on for the finish. It’s just good to be able to get up there and say thanks to that group of people, to shake their hands, take pictures and sign autographs afterward.
CWL: What’s your role in the show?
RD: We don’t have much time, we’re just going out there to say thank you, tell a personal story or two. They’re not there to see us, they’re there to see the performers do their job. They can’t really see us play a hockey game or a baseball game or anything.
CWL: Have you found that a lot of the troops recognize you?
RD: There’s a number of people from D.C. out here who are huge Nationals fans. They follow as much as they can. They can’t really watch on TV, but they follow us on the internet. It’s just kind of tough. They’re doing their job here, and with the time difference and all that, they can only follow online. But they are excited to follow us as a nice getaway from their job.
CWL: You left your honeymoon in Hawaii early to be here. How’s your new bride holding up with you away?
RD: She’s off in 80-degree weather and we’re stuck here in negative 10 degrees (laughing). She’s kept up with some emails to let me know how she’s doing, but it’s tough, because we can’t really tell her where we are. It’s got to be kind of nerve-racking for her to not know where I am when I’m halfway around the world.
CWL: What has been the most memorable moment of the trip so far?
RD: The first stop at the aircraft carrier off the coast of Bahrain. I didn’t know what to expect. The landing on an aircraft carrier is just unbelievable. We got to see the jets take off as they went on their training missions. You know that they take off, but once you see it, it’s incredible how little room they have. They go from 0-180 miles an hour in less than two seconds, then they’re off the flight deck and over the ocean. And that led into our first show, when we had no idea what to expect. We’re on the second deck of this aircraft carrier and the place is just packed. Thankfully, once Iliza went out there and had everyone rolling around laughing it took away some of the nervousness. We knew the morale was high, especially once Kellie went up there and everybody was singing along with her songs.