CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait — A small squad of cheerleaders for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens spent more than an hour here Wednesday entertaining troops.
Servicemembers from the North Carolina National Guard’s 1450th Transportation Company, which has been in Kuwait for a little more than three months, said the visit raised their spirits. The group arrived for the show at 5 p.m. — 2½ hours before it kicked off.
“Where else have you seen cheerleaders in the desert?” Spc. Bradley Oxford asked while explaining why the guardsmen arrived early for front row seats.
“Fashion TV just isn’t cutting it anymore,” added fellow Spc. Johnny “Irish Red” Killian.
During the performance, the squad did more than dance and perform acrobatic stunts. They had volunteers perform lifts with the cheerleaders and held a push-up contest with cheerleaders sitting on contestants’ backs.
Another contest, called “lap dance,” had eager volunteers, both men and women, in chairs while opposite-sex team members danced for them. The contestant had to keep eye contact and couldn’t crack a smile. Prizes ranging from T-shirts to lanyards were given away in all contests.
The troupe is on a two-week tour that will hopefully take its members to Iraq and end in Qatar, according to Mark, a five-year stunt team member. None of the cheerleading staff gave their last names out of privacy concerns.
Mark said the Iraq portion of the trip isn’t definite, but the group would like to be able to entertain troops there.
“This is a phenomenal experience … a life-altering experience, especially for the other cheerleaders who don’t have any military experience,” said Mark, a captain in the Maryland National Guard and company commander of the 229th Main Support Battalion’s Company B. He said 60 of his soldiers who were activated just returned to Maryland from Kuwait.
“We just want to give them a shot in the arm and hopefully re-energize them,” Mark said of those watching the performance. “We’re glad we can give them a change of pace and allow them to refocus. We also want to let them know that we appreciate what they’re doing, and that it’s important.”
Rachel, who has been on the squad for three years, said talking with troops has given her a new perspective.
“It’s one thing to hear and read [about life in Iraq], but it’s another thing to sit down and talk with [troops] and hear that one of their buddies was killed,” she said.
“I came into this with a tremendous amount of respect, but now I have a whole new appreciation.”
Rachel said that while it’s nice to hear the troops liked their show, it’s even better to hear that they made a difference. She said the best compliment they’ve received was “heard from all ranks — ‘I haven’t smiled this much the entire time I’ve been here.’ ”