Hi Redskins Nation,
I've just returned from my second Military Appreciate Tour overseas, and I hope I'll be able to come up with the right words to summarize the incredible time I had. Every opportunity to give back to our troops is a blessing, but the chance to do so while exploring Japan and meeting some fantastic new friends was an experience that will last a lifetime..huge thanks to Camp Zama and ProTour Productions for the opportunity!
I'll preface my story by sharing that this trip was my first time traveling to represent the burgundy and gold without 39 of my identically-dressed WRC sisters by my side, so I didn't quite know what to expect heading into the weekend. I found out pretty quickly, though, that despite our group representing six different cities, teams, and colors, we (NFL cheerleaders from the Buccaneers, Vikings, Raiders, Broncos, Chiefs, as well as our awesome ProTour Manager, Allison) formed a fast bond that will last a lifetime…and I even got pretty tight with a Cowboys fan, thanks to the amazing Zama Community Club Manager, Randy – also our tour guide for the weekend.
After 14 hour flights around the globe (literally taking nearly two days to get there after accounting for the 14 hour time difference!), we started our trip off right by indulging in some authentic Japanese ramen cuisine. We dined around a short booth, kneeling on floor cushions in traditional Japanese fashion, which proved to be quite the task – especially for our guides Michael, Randy, and Robert with their 6 foot stature! Needless to say, the meal was delicious and exactly what we needed before a good night's sleep to meet the base commander and flight battalion the next morning.
Our first full day at Camp Zama was spent meeting Garrison Commander, Colonel Tilley, and touring the Blackhawk helicopters with the 78th Aviation Battalion, or "Ninjas." Our hosts were gracious enough to allow me to suit up and jump into the co-pilot's seat, and we were honored to receive their official coins to commemorate our visit. We also learned that the motto of the United States Army, Japan (USARJ) - also engraved on the commander's coin - is "Ichidan," meaning "One Team." We quickly adopted this as our Super Bowl Tour group's motto for the weekend, as the six of us were on our own sort of "mission" to represent the NFL, America, and to bring a little piece of home to our troops.
In between rehearsal for our Super Bowl party performance, we were fortunate enough to get a five-star tour of Tokyo – visiting everything from the Great Buddha, or Kamakura Daibutsu, to a historic Temple, the Tokyo Tower, and of course Harajuku to do a little shopping. A few things I learned during our jaunt around Tokyo are: 1) Tokyo makes DC traffic look good!, 2) "Colorful, clean, and efficient" are three of the simplest words I could use to describe it, 3) They have the best candy…seriously, and 4) We could not have asked for better friends and hosts to enjoy our stay. The Japanese culture is so kind and inviting! That said, I'd be remiss without sending a heartfelt shout out to Randy and his wife Haruko, Robert and Michael, our unofficial guides for the weekend...as well as Poco and Chrismond (our photographers!) and Rika, Yumi and Lika, for being our friends throughout our stay.
Our last full day in Japan was spent at Camp Zama's renowned Super Bowl party, visiting the men and women who serve and sacrifice for our country every day. While I found many Redskins fans throughout the day (including the General, also a Howard University alumnus!), it was truly a joy to meet so many people from all over the globe and to learn about their stories, their service, and of course to talk a little football! I can only hope our performance and participation in the halftime show raffle was as entertaining as Beyonce. But I think I can speak on behalf of all of Tour Group "Ichidan" when I say "Nihan Daisuki" (I love Japan) and that this is not "sayōnara" (farewell forever)… just "jā ne" (see ya) for now.