By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jason Hernandez
Special to American Forces Press Service
July 31, 2009 - When most servicemembers think of their concert experiences here, they recall punching their fists into the desert sky, rocking out to old favorites and meeting new friends. Air Force Capt. Joshua Daniels, on the other hand, remembers long hours, black coffee and some of the most rewarding days of his military career.
Daniels, the base's morale, welfare and recreation liaison, is in charge of arranging entertainment for servicemembers deployed to western Iraq. Though much of his time is spent organizing concerts, he also finds time to acquire computers for the MWR facility and provide sports equipment for servicemembers here.
"It's an odd job to imagine the military having," Daniels said. "Essentially, I make sure everyone on base has something fun and constructive to do. Whether they are calling home, surfing the Internet, playing sports or going to a concert, the troops need to be entertained."
While most servicemembers count time left on their deployment by paychecks, months, weeks, days or even hours, Daniels tallies his by concert dates and computer shipments. The calendar tacked to the wall behind his desk reads more like a hotshot Hollywood agent's client list than the calendar of a U.S. military officer deployed to Iraq.
One of the challenges Daniels deals with regularly is working with band managers and finding the middle ground between entertainers wanting to express themselves artistically and putting on a show that will entertain a group of servicemembers ranging from 18 to 40 years old. Logistical problems also can come up. Although some groups require less outside support than others, there is still the occasional "heavy packer."
"We get groups in like Sevendust that don't really require much of anything to get up and running," Daniels said. "We let them onto the stage, and they set up and roll through with things. Then we get other groups. ... I won't mention any names, but some groups are worse than others."
But Daniels said he takes every challenge in stride, because his hard work and diligence pay off in an enormous way.
"What really does it for me is that one moment -- that one time when everything just falls into place perfectly, and I can just sit there and enjoy the finished product," he said with a smile.
The true reward of his work, he added, is watching hundreds of music fans in uniform, screaming for their favorite bands and wearing a smile from ear to ear.
Daniels is approaching the end of his deployment, and the only one main event left for him to be part of is his trip back to the United States.
As Daniels packs up and prepares to go, he leaves behind not only the desert sands of Iraq, but also thousands of servicemembers who are grateful to him for providing some of the best entertainment this side of the Euphrates.
(Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jason Hernandez serves with Multinational Force West.)