Tampa Bay Buccaneer Cheerleaders visit deployed troops

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey - Although the National Football League season won't begin for another six months, deployed troops supporting Operation Northern Watch had plenty to cheer about as the Tampa Bay Buccaneer Cheerleaders visited here March 8 and 9.

Their visit included an autograph-signing session at the Hodja Village Pub, a recreational tent for deployed troops, March 8 and a performance at Arkadas Park March 9.

At the autograph-signing session, deployed troops were given the opportunity to meet and talk with the 13 cheerleaders, take photographs, and receive autographs for approximately one hour.

"It's really classy for them to come here and do this for us," said Tech. Sgt. John Peraino, a jet engine mechanic deployed here from the 163rd Air Refueling Wing at March Air Force Base, Calif. "They're making a sacrifice coming out here to visit us. It makes us realize they care about us."

The following night, deployed troops and Incirlik Air Base personnel and family members were treated to a live performance at Arkadas Park. The show included cheerleading routines to Latin, jazz, country, hip-hop, and Broadway music. The cheerleaders also showcased their individual talents through individual performances in song and dance.

"We love to perform and we've been practicing for months," said Kimberly Kolinski, a three-year veteran on the Tampa Bay squad. Ms. Kolinski sang a patriotic medley to conclude the show. "To stand on that stage and to see the troops out there when they sing along ... there are no words that could ever describe that. We've all said we wish everybody we cared about could be here, because we don't feel like we'll ever be able to truly tell them how amazing it is."

According to Capt. Shawn Campbell, chief of Hodja Village Services, these visits are usually put together by the Armed Forces Entertainment Office, and the purpose of these events are to "improve morale or maintain, what we believe is already pretty high, spirits."

"It's great for morale, it's a stress reliever," Captain Campbell added. "You get the opportunity to break up your day a little bit, and that always helps."

Tech. Sgt. Kim Robertson, a reservist from Tinker AFB, Okla., said these visits simply give deployed troops something to look forward to. "People really do understand the sacrifice away from family and friends," Sergeant Robertson said.

Ms. Kolinski said the cheerleaders learn a lot from meeting and talking with deployed troops. "It's a wonderful opportunity to really understand how the military works. You can read about it in books and you can look at it in pictures, but there's no better education about the military than to be here every day and see what they do. There needs to be a higher level of respect for our military."

"Every person you meet is so different, so interesting," she added. "They thank us, but I keep saying, 'No, thank you. There's no reason to thank us. You're defending our country, and that's why we're here.'"

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