Homecoming for The Girls!
Diego Garcia-Indian Ocean
GIRLS AT WAR
Left to Right...
Sandy Walker / Barbara Leoni / Barbara Goodman
Tammy Erickson / Annie
Bertucci / Judy Shock
The Girls in the cockpit of
a KC-10 refueling aircraft
| 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 --
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 lead guitar.
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
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 home.
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
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
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.
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 Afghanistan.
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 the military!"
"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.
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 shack."
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.
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.