Cheerleaders Entertain Troops

By Staff Sgt. Jason Lake, 332nd AEW/PA
and Pfc. Abel Trevino, Staff writer

Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders performed to a packed crowd in the Sustainer Indoor Theater on July 3 to entertain troops for the holiday weekend.

"It's an honor for us to entertain the troops, as well as taking their minds off of what's going on for a bit," Staci, a Ravens cheerleader, said.

Napoleon Martinez, one of the Raven's cheerleading coaches, said this was the second year the team came out to Southwest Asia to help bring some entertainment to deployed service members.

"As much as we do with Ravens performances, we feel that this is the most important (performance) that we're doing," he said as dozens of people lined up with their cameras to take pictures with the team. "We feel that for everything that you all do for us and all the sacrifices that you make, this is the least that we can do."

Those who attended reacted positively to the efforts put forth by the team.

"It really boosted the morale of many of the Soldiers," said Staff Sgt. Diane Lujan from the 319th Corps Support Battalion. "It's something different from everyday situations. It was just a good time."

The crowd was thankful for the performance and the opportunity to meet the cheerleaders from Maryland.

"I think this helps morale a lot. Being away from the states as long as [the Soldiers] have been, seeing people who made a special trip from the states here really helps them," said Sgt. 1st Class Joyce M. Stanley, 4th Corps Material Management Center.

Stanley participated in a portion of the show where three female audience members were brought on stage and tossed in the air as a demonstration of the routines the cheerleaders performed.

"It was fun, a whole lot of fun," Stanley said.

A Soldier's perspective was brought to the event by one of the cheerleaders, Capt. Mark Citarella, who is a commander in the 229th Main Support Battalion, a Maryland National Guard Unit.

"It's definitely a double-edged sword, performing and supporting the Soldiers," he said. "I love being a soldier and commanding troops, to me that's what it's all about. The only thing that bothered me was having a pom-pom instead of a pistol."

Although he came without a pistol, he did not feel that his safety was compromised.

"I didn't have a single reservation about coming here. I have full faith in the Army and the military. I believe in what we are doing here, in bettering the Iraqi community," Citarella said. "I knew we would be protected at all times."

Despite Citarella's confidence, Soldiers appreciated the cheerleading coming to LSA Anaconda, which can be a dangerous place.

"I appreciated them coming out and showing their support, putting their lives in danger coming to this post, where their support is needed. There are places that don't get attacked as often in Iraq, but it meant a lot for them to come here where it was needed despite the danger," said Spc. Michael Lawrence Whitesides from the 1st Battalion, 14th Cavalry.

After experiencing two attacks, the cheerleaders felt safe and reassured of that safety.

"At first [the feeling from the attacks] was different and we had to get used to it. The way everyone handled it made us calmer," said Michelle.

The show went well, despite several holdups before the performance, which included them being delayed and missing the first scheduled show the previous day and an attack that delayed Saturday's performance 30 minutes.

"The show was excellent," said Staci, a three-year veteran for the team. The crowd behaved well, and added to the success of the show.

"The Soldiers are behaving well and being respectful to the cheerleaders," said Staff Sgt. Margaret Diacheysn, one of the military police from the 362nd Military Police Detachment assigned to security for the event.

Soldiers were able to enjoy the performance, which went without a hitch once it started. So well did it go, that Staci, a three-year veteran for the team, said if she had a chance to come back to Iraq in the future, she would not hesitate.

"We want to come out here to motivate and support our troops," she said.


news photo
Cheerleaders Entertain Troops Photos

news photo
Cheerleaders Entertain Troops Photos