Toby Keith headlines first three shows of Army Concert Tour
By Rob McIlvaine,
FMWRC Public Affairs
FORT KNOX, Ky. – The U.S. Army Concert Tour, a summer concert series that brings top name artists to Soldiers, their Families and people from the surrounding community, opened the 2010 series Saturday, May 29.
Not unlike the garrison’s 16th Cavalry, which has seen action in both world wars, Vietnam and continues to train the leaders of the mounted force to fight and win on the modern battlefield, Toby Keith and his band stampeded onto the Godman Army Airfield this past Saturday night during the Memorial Day weekend.
“This concert was designed to be a salute to the Active Duty Soldiers at Fort Knox who dedicate their lives to preserve our country’s freedom,” Family and MWR Chief of Community Recreation Director Mark Wicker said.
“We wanted to give those who serve an opportunity to enjoy an evening of great music and entertainment,” Wicker said.
The opening night of the Army Concert Tour brought about 12,000 cheering, singing and foot-stomping Soldiers, Family members and people from the surrounding community.
“This was the largest crowd we’ve ever had in the last 11 years I’ve been doing this,” said Wicker, who assumes the added responsibility of event coordinator during the approximate seven months of planning for this one night.
Following Saturday night’s success, Keith’s band, Army Entertainment Division Soldiers and the sponsors of the tour all packed up and moved their equipment to the second stop at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, before moving again to Toby’s third stop on the tour at the June 5 show on Fort Sill, Okla., Keith’s home state.
Toby Keith, a leader in the music industry with more than 30 million albums sold, has been among the top all-genre touring artists for a decade. He has charted more than 40 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, including 19 Number One hits and 16 additional Top Ten hits.
Since 2002, he and his band have made numerous USO-sponsored tours to the Middle East, South Africa and South Korea to bring entertainment and encouragement to the men and women serving on or near the front lines.
“My father was a Soldier. He taught his kids to respect veterans. It’s that respect and the thank-you that we have a military that’s in place and ready to defend our nation, our freedom,” Keith said in a recent interview.
"Spending time with our soldiers around the world is something I've always regarded as a privilege and honor, but I won't forget for a second who's really doing the heavy lifting to keep this country safe. And that's why I'll keep going back and spending time with those good folks every chance I get,” Keith said after winning the 2009 Johnny “Mike” Spann Memorial Semper Fidelis Award during a New York ceremony held by the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation.
This concert was a success because of the Army G-1 SHARP Program's and Boost Mobile's sponsorship support, along with the Installation Management Command, the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command and the entire support of the garrison – including Fire, Post Safety, Department of Emergency Services, Department of Public Works, Public Affairs and the Network Enterprise Center that provided communications.
“Without the help of those boots on the ground – the behind-the-scene men and women from the 250 military companies, the FMWR staff, the 40 volunteer garrison Soldiers who helped set up the stage, barriers, tents and who worked from 10 p.m. following the show until 2 a.m. tearing down the set, and the eight AED active duty Soldiers who travel with the show around the country, none of this one night of tribute could happen,” Wicker said.
In a Friday night meeting, after working five long days in the hot sun setting up the concert venue, the 10 garrison Soldiers in the “set up crew” were given their instructions for Saturday by their MWR leader.
“Tomorrow you don’t have to be back here until 10 p.m. so get plenty of rest,” Anne Connor, MWR Management Trainee, said. With nearly two years at Fort Knox, Anne feels lucky to not only be part of MWR’s initiative to train up and coming managers, but to also work with some great Soldiers.
“These guys were amazing to work with. They are all extremely disciplined with great personalities. It’s been very easy to work together and get the job the done with these Soldiers,” Connor said.
Staff Sgt. Sheron Powell, the NCOIC (non-commissioned officer in charge) of the Army Entertainment Division unit from Fort Belvoir, Va. who takes care of the Army stage and equipment, also had nothing but positive things to say about the eight Soldiers in her group.
“I have a real good crew who thinks like I do. When we’re doing the kind of job we do for Soldiers, work the long hours each day and then have the opportunity to sit back in the crowd during the concert…I mean, we’re just so proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Powell said.
While waiting to enter the concert, four young Toby Keith fans were combating the heat with cool drinks while looking over an I. A.M. Strong brochure given them by Sgt. Matthew Larsen, a BOSS Soldier. The Army’s sexual harassment and assault prevention campaign gets the full support of Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers – both programs help to make the Soldier’s life a safe and rewarding experience.
To further recognize the service Soldiers provide this nation, Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, Installation Management Command commanding general, is providing special deals, such as free and reduced-rate tickets for Soldiers and their Family members as part of the Army Family Covenant. This covenant pledges the Army’s commitment to support Soldiers and their Families and resource programs to provide a quality of life commensurate with their service.
“The Army gave me four free tickets because I lost my brother, Darrin, one of the first Soldiers to lose his life in Iraq,” said Anita Potter of Louisville, Ky. She brought her friends along to help celebrate a 23rd birthday.
These offers are available at every one of the garrisons in the Army Concert Tour. Active duty Soldiers, Family members and DoD civilians may visit the ITR (Information, Tickets and Reservations) office at their local garrison to receive these promotional discounts.
Log onto www.armymwr.com/recleisure/entertainment/concert_tour.aspx to learn more about the artists, the tour schedule and the sponsors.
To learn more about Army entertainment programs, visit our official website at: www.armymwr.com