Straight From the Hart IV
Hey, WWE fans. We had an early 7 a.m. call for the lobby. I was up at 5 a.m. and in the lobby at 6 to have breakfast. As usual, I am trying to be the first one in the restaurant. There are about 30 Kuwaiti women wearing burquas, all with their faces covered, milling around the lobby. As soon as I open the door to let three of them in, all of them rush past me, putting me at the back of the line for breakfast.
The breakfast is served as a buffet. I proceed to get my toast done first before I get my daily breakfast special. I put my bread into the toaster, and walk across the room to get the butter. When I return, I get back just in time to see one of the woman taking my toast away. Now, the way the customs are over here, if you look at a woman for more than a few seconds, you’re engaged. I figure that with this woman stealing my toast, she must be making wedding plans. Not with me, brother. I think I see her giggling at me, so I get my breakfast down fast and high tail it back to the lobby to meet up with everyone for our first base visit of the day.
In the van, Ron confides that he did not sleep a wink last night. He blames it on the breakfast special. He said, “That’s the last time I eat breakfast with you, Jimmy Hart!”
The temperature at 7:15 in the morning is 115 degrees Fahrenheit. We know it is going to be scorcher.
The first base we visit is Ali Al Salem Air Base, run by the U.S. Air Force 386 Air Expedition Wing. Ali Al Salem’s primary mission is to air lift troops in and out of Iraq using C-130’s. We meet with Vice Commander Colonel Charles Hyde. We soon learn that the Colonel lives a block away from Ron in Marietta, Ga., and that they both share a love of pulled pork and football.
From there, Master Sergeant Manny Perez and his team escort us to our first autograph and photo session at the Flex, which used to be a camp gym, but is now used as a recreational facility. Maria and Ashley look fabulous. Ron has worked out in the gym and looks great. Henry and Gary are another story. The crowd of servicemen and women are very gracious and receptive. Gary has arranged to have a base videographer (Airman First Class Jose Rodriguez) and a photographer (Staff Sergeant Jonathan Pomeroy) on hand to capture the action for possible use by our WWE TV production people. After a 90-minute session, we leave for an impromptu visit to the camp fire department. We meet with the Fire Dogs in Fire Hall No. 2, where we sign autographs and take photos. Ashley, noticing a dart board on the wall, picks up a dart and promptly hits bullseye, much to the crowd’s delight. She is so excited, she knocks her Gatorade on the floor, again getting a rousing cheer from the crowd. She has no shortage of Fire Dogs to clean it up. Later, she puts on fire gear and cuts a promo with the Fire Dogs for possible use on SmackDown.
By this time, the temperature outside is rising to130 degrees. Our next stop is the camp flight line, where we sign autographs and take photos with the C-130 Air Maintenance Crew in a bunker that still shows signs of being bombed during the first Gulf War. Maria, not to be outdone by Ashley, accepts the challenge to “Ride the Toolbox,” which requires her to sit on a metal tool box in her dress in the back of a pick-up truck and drive around the hangers with some of the crew. She then has the crew cut a promo for possible use on RAW.
We are all starting to feel the effects of the heat. In order to deal with the hot climate, we are told to keep drinking water constantly. Even then, sometimes the heat can overcome you. At the next autograph session, Ashley begins to swoon. Our base escorts demand she be taken to the Medical Center, despite her protests to the contrary. While doctors check her out, we proceed to our next destination, Camp LSA’s Mess Hall, where we meet the base commander, Lieutenant Colonel Tim Eichhorn, for lunch. Camp LSA is right next to Ali Al Salem and is the last stop before military personnel leave the country for well deserved R&R or return home to the U.S.A. There can be up to 2,000 troops a day at Camp LSA getting prepped for their return home.
After lunch, we visit Navy Customs, where some of the troops are in lockdown awaiting their flights home. It is great to see the smiles on their faces as their final activity in camp is getting to meet some of the Legends and Divas. Gary then retrieves Ashley from the Medical Center. While still weak, she insists on participating in our last photo session on base.
We have a rowdy crowd in the MWR tent when we arrive. Much to his delight, I let the Colonel use the megaphone to address the troops and provide us with Certificates of Appreciation before we start our session. He relates to me that whenever he used to see me on TV, he always dreamed of using the megaphone. And now, in a far off land, his dream has come true.
It is humorous, but also touching, to see a number of the married men on base request that Ron and I be part of any photos with Maria and Ashley, out of deference to their wives at home. Maria looks at me and whispers, “You know, Jimmy, that’s so wonderful how loyal these men are to their wives.” It is also interesting to hear the women’s side of the story. Two of our escorts, Major Rosemary Alvarez and Second Lieutenant Lisa Charles, are both military wives serving in Kuwait. They said they missed their husbands, but having Ron around was helping to ease the pain.
A photographer for the New York Daily News is at the session, snapping photos of some of the New York guys with the Divas, so you Daily News readers, check it out.
We are beat by the end of the session. The temperature is still rising, and despite having a great time, we are ready to take a break. After goodbyes to our new friends and escorts, Dallas Webb, Kevin Connor and J.B. Barnes, we are off. We get Ashley back to her room, and Maria and Henry make plans for dinner. Gary, Ron and I, along with Ryan, Richard, and Chris, go to eat at a local shopping mall. Of course you know me, when I see a Johnny Rockets I have to get some French fries. Gary and the gang want to eat at an Indian restaurant, and they talk the manager into letting me bring my Johnny Rockets To Go over to eat with them. While I am waiting for my food, all of the Johnny Rockets staff recognizes me and come over to say hello. Most of them are young men from Manila, and are big fans. It shows how global WWE has become.
As we walk over to the Indian restaurant with my bag of food, Gary and I try to remember how many replica WWE championship belts our team signed at our autograph sessions. It’s really amazing that these kids can bring anything they want with them when they are over here, and they choose to bring WWE Championship belts.
We’ve got another base to visit tomorrow before our stay in Kuwait is over. While we are all looking forward to returning home, we’re also excited about having another chance to thank our men and women of the Armed Forces for all that they do.
Everywhere we go in Kuwait, we’re thanked for the good we are doing for the morale of our troops. If they only knew how much meeting our troops has done for our morale as Americans.
In 22 years, I’ve been on a lot of wrestling tours, and I’ve never worked with a more professional group than Maria, Ashley and Ron. No one has a special car, no one has a special dressing room, and no one has a special hotel room. We’re all sweating it out together for our troops. Like we say, “No More Prima Donnas, baby.” I hope it catches on.