Toby Keith (right) and Scott Emmerick play an acoustic set for the Soldiers of 1-15th Infantry Regiment at Combat Outpost Carver, Salman Pak, Iraq, April 26. Keith included the outpost in his sixth USO tour to reach out to frontline Soldiers working away from larger bases. COP Carver is an austere base on the banks of the Tigris River, 25 miles southeast of Baghdad. "I absolutely enjoyed the show, it was so small and personal it was like having Toby Keith playing at my backyard barbecue, back home in Albany," said Sgt. Christofer Kitto, Albany, N.Y., a scout for Headquarters Company. (U.S. Army photo/Sgt. 1st Class Scott Maynard)
Toby Keith walks toward the landing zone with a UH-60 Black Hawk crew chief from the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, after playing for Soldiers at Combat Outpost Carver, Salman Pak, Iraq April 26. Keith, on his sixth USO tour, performed at the small base to include Soldiers who fight on the front lines. (U.S. Army photo/Sgt. 1st Class Scott Maynard)
By Sgt. 1st Class Scott Maynard
3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Public Affairs Office
FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – Soldiers on the front lines of the war on terror enjoyed a special visit from country music star Toby Keith April 26 at Combat Outpost Carver outside of Salman Pak, Iraq, 25 miles southeast of Baghdad on the banks of the Tigris River.
When a Soldier in the crowd thanked Keith, an Acadamy of Country Music Awards winning musician, and son of a Soldier, for playing, Keith replied “No, thank you for your service.”
The United Service Organization promoted the show. The 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment hosted the event and celebrated their 147th birthday.
After the show, a Soldier read the regiment’s history, and Keith was made an honorary member. During the celebration, Keith cut a birthday cake along with the oldest member and youngest member of the battalion.
“The fact that the show and the regiment’s birthday happened together allowed Keith to take part in some tradition. This regiment is rich with history and what we do today and tomorrow will be history,” said Sgt. Christofer Kitto, from Albany, N.Y.
For some of the frontline Soldiers, this was their first USO show experience.
“I absolutely enjoyed the show, it was so small and personal it was like having Toby Keith playing at my backyard barbecue, back home in Albany,” said Kitto, a scout in Headquarters Company, 1-15th Inf. Regt. “This was my first USO show experience in my five years of service and two deployments to Iraq.”
It is not often that forward-deployed Soldiers get to see entertainers. The USO and Keith made it their priority during this tour to reach out to those Soldiers.
“It shows Keith is a true patriot and supporter of the troops,” Kitto said.
Other Soldiers were grateful to Keith for making the trip deep into Multi-National Division – Center’s southern belt around Baghdad.
“Being so isolated at a newly established combat outpost we don’t enjoy the luxuries that other Soldiers do who are at the larger forward operating bases. Keith changed all that today with his visit,” said Sgt. Michael Gerniglia, a native of Boston.
Gerniglia shared Kitto’s views on risk and patriotism.
“We are deep in enemy territory out here and for Keith to take the risk of coming out this far, I think it shows the Soldiers he really supports us and support is all we (pointing around to the crowd) Soldiers need,” said Gerniglia, a scout in Headquarters Company, 1-15th Inf. Regt.
The 1-15th Inf. Regt. is assigned to 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, from Fort Benning, Ga., and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March 2007.