When I'm not writing novels, I work as a video editor on documentaries, TV commercials, and corporate videos. This year I was invited to travel to Iraq to edit a TV commercial. On January 1st, 2010, Tostitos and the USO hosted a "Salute the Troops" Bowl game, where the soldiers stationed in Iraq got a chance to play flag football with some celebrity football players and coaches from the United States. Among the celebrities traveling with the USO were Coach Barry Switzer, Coach Tommy Bowden and eight football players: Tony Casillas, Rocket Ismail, Bruce Smith, Brian Bosworth, Ty Detmer, Tee Martin, Tommy Frasier, and Joe Washington.
I was part of a video crew that filmed the entire event to produce a TV commercial, Hi-light video, and documentary. I got the privilege to travel to Camp Liberty military base in Baghdad to edit on site. On January 4th, the two-minute commercial played during the half-time show at the Tositos Fiesta Bowl. You can view this a the bottom of this article. First, I have posted several photos from the trip.
First stop: London.
On our way to the Middle East, we stopped off for a day in London to change planes. Since we had a ten-hour layover, we decided to take a day trip into the city. We took a train to to Picadilly Circus, which reminded me of New York's Times Square. We ate dinner at a pub called The Sussex. I ordered Fish 'n Chips and had a beer with the crew. Below is a busy street where there were many billboards advertising musicals and shows.
Me posing outside the pub.
After an overnight flight from London we landed in Kuwait.
We spent one night at the Radisson Hotel and ate some wonderful Middle Eastern cuisine. Below is Kuwait City on the coast of the Persian Gulf. I found the city to be beautiful with a mixture of modern architecture and Arabic buildings. There was even a space needle like the one in Seattle. The people in Kuwait were very friendly.
The next morning we were escorted by U.S. soldiers to the military airport where we boarded a C-130 cargo plane. Flying on an Air Force plane was one of the most exciting parts of the trip.
Inside the plane we all sat across from one another.
We were required to wear helmets and Kevlar vests in case we were fired upon. Missile tracers were fired off to make sure our path was clear. Behind me is the cargo area where all our gear was stored.
We were able to go up to the cockpit and watch the pilots in action.
On December 29th, we landed at the Baghdad airport. This was a very surreal moment for me. We were greeted by a welcome party of troops and members of the USO.
Two of my heroes, Coach Barry Switzer and Tony Casillas, getting off the plane. Switzer coached the Dallas Cowboys in the mid-nineties when they went to a Superbowl. Tony Casillas was also a member of the Dallas Cowboys and proudly wore his Superbowl ring.
The flight crew posing with cheerleaders from Colorado University. The cheerleaders came on the trip to cheer at the pep rally and football game and to boost the troops's spirits.
The legendary Brian Bosworth (a.k.a. "The Boz") from the University of Oklahoma.
Here are quarterback Tee Martin and running back Joe Washington being greeted by an Army officer.
Former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver and Notre Dame star Rocket Ismail visiting with an Army officer.
Campy Liberty. Every day choppers flew over the base in Baghdad.
The base encompasses several lakes with beautiful palaces that had once belonged to Saddam Hussein. These palaces are now used as military headquarters.
Here are two young men from Uganda who were hired by the military to guard the posts. They were very serious about their jobs. My hand is hovering over one of the guard's shoulders, because I started to put my arm around him, and then I stopped short, thinking, "Woah, he might not like that."
The JVB was a palace converted into a hotel for soldiers and civilians who come to visit the base. This is where we ate three meals a day in the mess hall. Our sleeping quarters were in trailers surrounded by concrete walls to protect us from mortar fire. There were four bunk beds to a trailer. Sharing a trailer with three other people, I felt like I was at summer camp.
Above and below are views from the back of the JVB hotel where we ate.
Below is a sequence of soldiers in action around the base.
My editing suite was a very small storage building beside the palace. It was very cramped quarters.
After the barrage of mortar shells, it was back to work. We had a film to make. Here I am editing footage the camera guy just brought me.
Traveling over to Camp Liberty in Iraq was an amazing experience. I met so many wonderful troops and returned home with a deep sense of pride. Below is the two-minute commercial that I edited for the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. My next project is to edit a longer documentary which I will post at a later date.