Combat Carolers bring holiday cheer to JBB

Story and photos by Pfc. Lisa A. Cope
139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — Service members got into the holiday spirit Dec. 15 by singing Christmas carols and ceremonially lighting the Christmas tree on Sapper Circle at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.

Brig. Gen. Craig A. Franklin, commander of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, presided over the tree lighting and quoted President Barack Obama, from his speech during the national tree lighting Dec. 3 in Washington.

"'The Christmas story is a Christian one, but its lesson is universal," he quoted. "'It represents a tradition that we celebrate as a country, a tradition that has come to represent more than any one holiday or religion, but a season of brotherhood and generosity to our fellow citizens.'"

Franklin expressed the importance of the military family during the holiday season and commended the service members stationed at JBB for their part in the mission in Iraq.

"Although we cannot be with our families during this season, I cannot think of any other place I would rather be than with this family," he said. "(It is) my privilege to serve with each and every one of you, our fellow Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines. It is an elite group that is here, that has the honor and the privilege to serve our nation and also to serve the nation of Iraq, as we strive to help the Iraqi people have a representative government that hears their voice and gives them the rights that we so much enjoy."

Capt. Brandy C. Brown, chaplain with the 332nd Expeditionary Security Forces Group and a Montgomery, Ala., native, put together a singing group called the Combat Carolers, to improve morale and spread holiday cheer at JBB.

The group sang at the tree lighting and plans to continue caroling every night at the JBB United Services Organizations and the intensive care ward in the Air Force Theater Hospital, said Brown.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Paul Orthel, the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) supply branch technician and a Titonka, Iowa, native, sings at Gilbert Memorial Chapel at JBB, as well as with the Combat Carolers. He said caroling brings a little bit of home to Iraq, as service members gather and sing together.

"It is a great thing that we are able to do this," he said. "It was well arranged, considering the circumstances."

Brown said the military family cohesiveness is essential to high morale, especially during the holiday season.

"When you cannot be with the ones you love, when you cannot be with your friends and family back home and the military and the deployed environment is all you have, then you have to make to best of the situation," she said. "Who you have around you becomes your family. (During) the holidays it is very vital to keep your spirits up and to keep your holiday fervor bright. … That is all we need to do, embrace each other for the holidays and become each others' family while we are here."


news photo
Capt. Brandy C. Brown, chaplain with the 332nd Expeditionary Security Forces Group and a Montgomery, Ala., native, and her Combat Carolers sing Christmas carols before the Christmas tree lighting ceremony Dec. 15 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.