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AFCENT Band "Loyal" to the mission

AFCENT Band Wild Blue Country loads gear onto a Blackhawk. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karl Bradley)

AFCENT Band Wild Blue Country loads gear onto a Blackhawk. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Karl Bradley)

Wild Blue Country performs for the troops at COB Loyalty; the first entertainment to reach them in over 3 months. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karl Bradley)

Wild Blue Country performs for the troops at COB Loyalty; the first entertainment to reach them in more than three months. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Karl Bradley)

Technical Sgt. Tim Stombaugh & other Wild Blue Country members hand out CD's while greeting COB Loyalty troops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karl Bradley)

Tech. Sgt. Tim Stombaugh and other Wild Blue Country members hand out CDs while greeting COB Loyalty troops. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Karl Bradley)

Wild Blue Country sees Baghdad in their "rear-view mirror" after only being on the ground 2 hours 45 minutes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karl Bradley)

Wild Blue Country sees Baghdad in their "rear-view mirror" after only being on the ground two hours, 45 minutes. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Karl Bradley)

Baghdad, IRAQ -- The sun beats down on an airstrip as two Blackhawk helicopters come into view.

Live entertainment is a great troop morale enhancement tool, but there are places too risky for civilian entertainers. Come along with Wild Blue Country from the AFCENT Band into the Al Sadder neighborhood of Baghdad, one of the most dangerous spots in country. Here is their story...

Hour 1: The band loaded at Al Assad Air Base for the flight to COB Loyalty with no assurance they would actually complete their mission due to the security risks at their destination. An RPG tore through a concrete barrier the day before and they received mortars while the band was loading the choppers at Al Assad.

Hour 2: The mission begins and the flight was uneventful. Luckily Apache gunships were flying and enabled a safe landing. No time to rest as they hot-unloaded in three minutes and the Blackhawks were off. The band set-up in 30 minutes.

Hour 3: The hour-long performance began before a joint service audience. Almost all the uniformed personnel stationed at Loyalty turned out for their first entertainment in more than three months. The commander always requests entertainment but most decline or don't make it.

About 70 percent of COB Loyalty troops have been awarded the combat action medal due to heavy activity in this area. They have the only casualty from direct enemy fire during Operation New Dawn.

Hour 4: The performance was a welcomed "direct hit." After a short time talking with the troops they packed up fast and had time for a quick tour. The brave men and women at Loyalty work around war-torn buildings in constant fear of attack but stay mission focused.

Hour 5: The Blackhawks swooped down while the Apache's provided cover overhead. The band hot-loaded in three minutes and the choppers ascended back to base; mission complete.

All total, they were on the ground two hours, 45 minutes and brought some much needed normalcy to isolated troops who live day to day in harms way.

"This is why we're over here," said Master Sgt. Karl Bradley, AFCENT Band Operations/Logistics Representative. "We'd come back for those guys in a heartbeat."

(The U.S. Air Force Academy Band is stationed at Peterson AFB.)

Peterson SFB Schriever SFBCheyenne Mountain SFSThule AB New Boston SFS Kaena Point SFS Maui