| Here at home in America, we have the luxury
of being able to sit around and argue the pros and cons, the rights
and wrongs of waging war. However, for our men and women in the
military, there is only one side -- OUR side.
And these extraordinary people are stationed at military
bases all over the world, in lonely remote places, far away from
family and friends, removed from the political rancor.
Whatever your own personal opinion of the war, many of us do
not get the opportunity to see the war close enough to really know
what these men and women sacrifice for us on a daily basis. To
our troops overseas, our opinions are just those, opinions.
Unless you see it all with you own eyes, you wouldn't know what these
people are doing for us.How do you feel about the tragedy on September
11 -- sad, fearful, ANGRY? Would writing a personal note venting
these feelings to Osama bin Laden on a bomb make you feel better?
Does writing on a bomb offend you? Most of us would never know
unless we were presented with chalk to write on the bomb. But
who gets that opportunity?
The California Girls did. We are an all-female band
that specializes in surf music (we have been an opening act for The
Beach Boys and Steppenwolf), along with our own
originals in the surf/alternative vein, R&B, blues, rock, country
and anything else under the sun.
Prior to Sept 11 we toured Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia,
and after the 11th, Korea and Okinawa. When the Twin Towers fell
and the Pentagon was attacked, the tours became even more meaningful.
Over Christmas and New Years the band went on a tour to Singapore and
Diego Garcia. It gave us a behind-the-scenes look at the war on
terrorism, and put a face on Operation Enduring Freedom.
THE LINE UP
The California Girls are: Sandy Walker on bass
guitar, a tall, leggy blonde heartbreaker; Michelle Olsen,
keyboard player and another blond bombshell (due to a recent
operation, she didn't go, so we took Annie Bertucci in her place -- an
energetic firecracker on keyboards); "Rebel" Tamara Ericson
who dances and sings her heart out, Judy Shock, our newest member who
is not only beautiful but plays saxophone and sings like crazy; and
"Guitar Goddess" (co-author) Barbara Leoni shreds all over a
On drums we have (co-author) Barbara Goodman, the comedic
voice of the band who says she "drives the train and lands the
plane" (Goodman is also Snotty Scotty and the Hankie's
longtime drummer). We all take turns singing lead vocals and
each of us has her own selection of "big numbers."
The band took drums, amps, instruments, microphones and a
speaker system (17 extra pieces of baggage!) and got on a plane
heading west over the Pacific Ocean. Eighteen hours later we
arrived in Singapore, a place with an unusual mix of Asians, Indians,
Muslims, and Westerners. It was surprising to us that almost
everyone spoke English and it was very easy to get around on the train
system, which we used at every opportunity to go shopping.
We were made aware of the local laws of no chewing gum or
littering. If you broke the law, you could be caned. (We
saw several people picking their noses and wondering if a
"citizen's caning" was in order!) The people of
Singapore celebrated Christmas Eve as if it were New Year's Eve --
with hats, champagne, confetti, a countdown to midnight and cries of
"Merry Christmas" in their heavy accents.
The Carl Vinson was the first aircraft
carrier on scene in the North Arabian Sea, their fighter planes the
first to drop bombs in Afghanistan. The people aboard hadn't
been off the ship in 111 days, so we were their first contacts from
It was a day to remember. The sheer size of the
ship and number of aircraft were amazing.....it was a floating city !
Nicole, a firefighter on the ship, showed us here living
quarters down below. They sleep in rows stacked three beds
height and share a small living area. Members of the
"Fighting Redcock Squadron", who fly and maintain the F-18
fighter aircraft gave Barbara Goodman a sticker she proudly displays
on her drums.
We met some higher brass too.....Commander Grey has a
3-year-old daughter who got a shiny red guitar for Christmas and asked
if she could "sit in" with the band. It was Christmas
Day and we were dressed in our red-and-white Santa dresses made by our
bass player, Sandy.
"Of course," we said. She was a natural
performer and fit right in with her blonde hair. No stage fright
there. The guys got a kick out of it an I'm sure she made them
think of their children at home.
Another ship came in to Singapore, the U.S.S. Ogden.
Three enlisted musicians wanted to "sit in," so we gladly
let them, knowing it's good for their morale to see their buddies get
up on stage and jam. Their commanding officer liked them so much
that he promised them a budget so they could buy equipment and play on
the ship. They told the band, "You made my West Pac!"
- meaning their tour of duty in the western pacific was now
Next, we boarded a C-141 to a British ocean territory
known as the "Footprint of Freedom." A natural port
made by a volcano, Diego Garcia is a strip of land surrounding a
lagoon with blue, warm water and white-sand beaches. What a
tropical paradise! Coral reefs for snorkeling, deep-sea fishing,
dolphins, colorful birds, bicycles to rent and lots of sun and fun.
The guys who had been there awhile felt a little differently as they
had island fever. That's where we came in. They said our
presence increased the female population significantly.
While at Diego Garcia, we met the team from the U.S.S.
Russell who rescued the four men from the B-1 bomber that crashed in
the Indian Ocean over the holidays.
Master Sgt. Dave Donaldson, Technical Sgt. Gary Hanna,
and Lt. Col. Bob Millman walked the band through a B-52 Bomber and a
KC-10 Extender refueling aircraft out at the airport. The B-52's
belly was pregnant with bombs. They were cold to the touch, even
though it was sweltering hot on the tarmac. It was a
bone-chilling moment to know they would soon be dropped over
At this point the girls were presented with chalk to
write on the bombs. After a quick photo shoot, the band saw the
KC-10 Extender. We were eager to see the refueling seats at the
back of the plane. Dave said, "I'm always busy extending my
18 inch boom ..... I'm the one who passes more gas than anyone else in
"Capt. Bob" Millman is a pilot who works for
American Airlines who lost two co-workers on the ill-fated Sept. 11
flights. He didn't seem to want to talk much about it.
Capt. Bob arranged for the band to have a special "briefing"
at the airfield so we could get an in-depth look at the was in
Afghanistan. We viewed unclassified videotape showing the
pinpoint accuracy of "smart bombs," fitted with guidance
devices that minimize human casualties. We also received samples
of leaflets that were dropped all over Afghanistan with various
messages printed on them, telling people on the ground that bombs were
going to be dropped in the area and what radio station they should
tune into for details of the military action.
SMART BOMB KISSES
After the airfield we toured the "Tent City"
where most of the personnel are staying. The entire band
felt guilty that we were given our own rooms in the officers' quarters
while they were slogging around in the mud every day. At the
recreation hall we saw the outpouring of cards, letters and cookies
sent by children to the troops. Large banners signed by entire
towns in the Midwest hung on the dining facility walls where we ate
after our sweaty tour of the airstrip.
As our bus rolled through Tent City, Dave asked us to go
above and beyond the call of duty. He had a "special
mission" for us, if we chose to take it.
You see, Dave's roommate, Christian, was working at night
and could not come to our shows. We mad a surprise visit to his
tent. The sign above the door read, "The no-love
Arming ourselves with thick coats of red lipstick, also
known as "lipping up," we entered the tent quietly while
Christian slept. The kisses hit their targets with incredible
accuracy. The groggy airman awoke with kisses all over his face,
neck and back and told the girls that he thought he was dreaming.
"Wait!" Where are you going? Come
back!" he said. According to his friends, Christian avoided
the shower for the next three days. Mission accomplished!
The California Girls had a little mission of our own
while at Diego Garcia.
Caroline Virgil, an Altadena resident, had met our band
at Domenico's bar in Old Town Pasadena one Tuesday night. When
she heard that we would be at Diego Garcia, she excitedly told us that
she wanted to send some pajamas to her nephew, 1st Lt. Timothy
McFadden, who had been overseas since 9-11. Timothy is an
Electronics Warfare Officer (EWO) on a B-52 bomber.
The band did some "inside" investigative work
to make sure Timothy would be at the huge New Year's Eve party, the
biggest concert of the tour. Timothy's buddies pushed him onto
the stage wearing a bewildered look. When we gave him his aunt's
Christmas present, the crowd went wild! Timothy gave us a sealed
envelope to deliver back to his Aunt Carol, our most important mission
As we signed autographs the band was repeatedly asked,
"What is it like back in the U.S.?" Our troops weren't
here for the candlelight vigils and mass patriotism that swept the
nation last fall.
No matter what your personal opinion of the war, our
troops need to feel that we are behind them, no matter what.
The California Girls proudly look forward to our tour for
the entire month of March to Honolulu, Guam, Johnston Island,
Kwajalein, Kosroe, Pohnpei, Chuuk, Okinawa and Hiroshima.
The California Girls will then have a big party in early
April when they return to their regular Tuesday nights at Domenico's
Bar & Grill, Old Town Pasadena.
Call (626) 449-1948 for information about our homecoming