Ross & Craig’s USO Tour – Show On The Road
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.
From: Craig Stammen | Dec 13, 2012
The morning began at 6:45 a.m. down in the lobby. Today we would be going on an aircraft carrier to do our first show. The USS John C. Stennis would be our destination in the middle of the Persian Gulf, 50 miles off the coast of Iran. Now it’s about to get real! The next 12-15 hours would be some of the most memorable of my life.
We boarded the COD in full chest and headgear. We would be flying approximately 40 minutes before landing on the deck of the carrier, with only a cable to stop us, just like the fighter jets. We were warned that this would be quite the experience, but that the takeoff when we left would be more exhilarating. The landing turned out to be an indescribable experience. We landed so quickly after having been going so fast, I have really no idea what I felt or what had even happened. All I know is we were on an aircraft carrier.
We were paraded around the entire ship by all of the highest-ranking naval officers on the boat. They took us up to the Captain’s chair to watch the F-18s take off and land. This was the coolest thing I think I’ve ever watched in person – yes, even better than a Notre Dame football game. Later, we were allowed to move outside to watch more planes land. Being outside was an even crazier experience. As the plane landed and came to a stop via the cable, the noise and power of the plane would shake your body to the bone. It felt like your insides were moving!
After this exhilarating experience we were shown several other parts of the ship as we neared our first show! Our job for the show was to bridge the gap between the comedian and the musician. Sweeeeeet! What were we going to do, play catch with each other? The show turned out great. There were about 3,000 crew able to attend the show, and some of them were Nats fans! We talked for about 10 minutes and threw some signed souvenirs into the crowd. Success on the first day!
Iliza was extremely funny and the crew loved her. Kellie did her thing as well. Next we took a few pictures and signed autographs and got to know some of the troops a little better. They were in such high spirits and even though I don’t think many of them knew who I was, they were very appreciative of us being there. What an honor to be able to do the things I did today. As things wrapped up, we said our final thank you’s, goodbyes, and good lucks. It was now time to be catapulted off the ship!
We were warned for a few days straight how nuts this would be. It was an adrenaline rush like no other. After we were in the air, I immediately wanted to do it again – how selfish! Sergeant Major Battaglia would explain to us that many people who had been in the armed forces for 30+ years have never been able to land and take off from a carrier like we just did. Well, all I can say is that’s another thing off my bucket list, even though, before this trip, I never thought it would have been on my bucket list to begin with! I’m running out of superlatives to describe this, but wow!
Our next stop was the naval base in Bahrain. We were given a tour of the facilities, watched the General address and answer questions for the troops stationed there, and were given a bomb dog demonstration. A dog named Cherry was the most impressive canine we saw. Big, strong and smart – a beautiful animal helping protect the USA.
We finished the day by taking photos with a lot of families on the base. A few crazy Nats fans actually knew who we were! Kellie stole the show being at the center of all the pics! The day was finally over and I was done – literally I had no energy left. However, a two-hour power nap got me ready for dinner with the “talent,” minus Kellie. By now, we were all comfortable with each other and some of us had nicknames. We had Thickness and Cindy Lou Who leading our laughs for the night!
All in all, we’ve not only been enjoying once-in-a-lifetime experiences, but we’ve also been building great friendships along the way. I can’t wait to see what’s next…