It began with a simple email from Armed Forces Entertainment (AFE) back in early January. “Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders (DCC) USO tour” read the subject line. Winter break was still in effect for the NPC, but I hurriedly got in contact with our NPC Club president to tell him my master plan. “Christoph, we have an opportunity to get the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, and I am going to do everything I can to make this happen,” I exclaimed. Of course, some formalities had to be taken care of first, namely asking for permission to host the show from my US boss as well as the installation commander. Fortunately, this was an easy sell. Answers like, “Sure, that’d be great!” and, “Cheerleaders? I LIKE CHEERLEADERS!” quickly solidified in my mind that the proverbial runway was clear for the DCC to land, I just had to hope that the NPC made the final cut of installations to receive them.
After a couple of weeks of waiting with bated breath and doing some hard-core promotion of the NPC to AFE, on late Friday, 21 January I finally got the good news that my dream was going to be realized on 14 March. The following Monday I sent the greatest email to ever be sent to all personnel at the NPC – the announcement of the DCC’s imminent visit along with a picture of the entire 2004/2005 squad. This picture instantly became a classic around the office, with people printing it out to hang on the wall and saving it as their computer wallpaper. I still can’t shake the thought of the meeting I walked into a few days after my email release where we were supposed to discuss some serious topics and the first thing I see is the DCC’s picture blown up to 10 feet wide by the room’s projector.
The time between the end of January and the middle March seemed to blow right by, and before I knew it I was coming off a week-long ski expedition to Garmisch-Partenkirchen (another Trips story coming down the pipe) to find myself on the day of the DCC’s appearance. All the details of the visit had been meticulously worked out, with planning taking on a level of importance as if the President himself was arriving. Advertising was a no-brainer as all I had to do was send out a reminder a few weeks before the DCC's arrival featuring Crystal Risher in the email. I think Crystal had the biggest following at the NPC prior to the DCC arrival because of that email. Lodging for the ladies was also not an issue, thanks to the kind people at Holiday Inn. However, had the Holiday Inn been completely booked during this period, I had received dozens of offers of available beds from “concerned” personnel. What generous people we have here! Unlike many of the other sites hosting the DCC, I had the NPC opt to provide a special dinner for the DCC with members of our community. Thanks to our multinational staffing, it was simple to just get one of the Italian guys to cook a nice meal for the dinner. After all, how often will these ladies have the chance to eat real Italian food made by a real Italian chef? Buon appettito, baby!
Thanks to a nightmare foretelling complete disorganization for the event, I have to admit I was a little nervous on the day of the visit. Ok, actually I wasn’t nervous; I was just galvanized like a little kid on Christmas day. Last year, I never thought I could top having professional Polynesian dancers from Hawaii come and entertain us. However, I proved myself quite wrong. Oh yes, very, very wrong. Due to some trouble with their bus, the DCC arrived a little bit later than expected and I had to quickly shift around the schedule to accommodate the delay. They always said back in school that flexibility is the key to airpower; “they” were not lying. The original plan that I had been talking up for weeks to the hordes of newfound Dallas Cowboy fans was to have the DCC tour through each office doing a “meet and greet,” followed by some brief sideline routines during a special Beer Call. Luckily, the late start only compressed this schedule and did not really change anything.
Before the office tours began, the ladies and their management ventured to the cafeteria with me to outline how they would like to perform the routines. As soon as we got into the cafeteria, I realized that despite all of my hours, days, and weeks of careful planning and strategizing, I still did not have control of everything going on. This realization came via the sound of question uttered in unison by the ladies.
“Is there a Poohwinkie here today?” they shouted.
“Huh, I’m sorry?” was my first reply.
“Oh, you must be Poohwinkie!” the ladies retorted.
At this point, my face turned multiple colors as I experienced a level shock not unlike what car crash victims probably feel. After years of staying in the household, my parents’ pet name for me had been unexpectedly released into the ears of the public, most notably the people I have to work with day in and day out. Ok, now you’re asking what the heck is a “Poohwinkie?” Well, according to Doug, my father, my two favorite shows when I was little were Winnie the Pooh and Wee Willy Winkie (sic). Doug, being the clever guy he is, created an unholy union of the characters’ names that he and Susan have used to refer to me well into my adult years. Now, you may ask, how in the world did the DCC know to call me that? Well, it seems that Doug, being as sneaky as a one-eyed raccoon at night, had been secretly planning this caper for over a month. Since I made the mistake of informing him about the upcoming visit by the DCC, he made a few calls and got in touch with the manager of the DCC, Mr. Dan Devens, and spoke with him at length about me, this website, and Poohwinkie. Of course, this information did not come easily, as Dan thoroughly enjoyed avoiding the subject when I asked him what the scoop was about his knowledge of all things Poohwinkie.
Enough digression, back to the visit! The touring group consisted of twelve cheerleaders, so we had the group split in half and took each mini-group to a different building. Basically, we just started at the beginning of each hallway and worked our way down, with me sticking my head into each office saying, “Good afternoon [Random NPCer], how would you like to meet the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders?” The personnel meeting my group were talkative and lively, but I’m told that the other group met personnel that were absolutely speechless at the sight of these beauties. Whether the ladies met people who could talk or just simply stare like deer in headlights, they signed autographs for everyone that they met. Many of the ladies kept remarking to me how cool it was to meet people from so many different countries all in one location. The NPC was a definite change of pace for them because they normally visit installations consisting of only American personnel. Many of the Brits at the NPC were excited to meet cheerleader Emma Dawson, who was originally born in the UK. To their slight dismay, though, she only lived there when she was a little girl and has since been completely “Americanized” in her accent. Better luck next time, boys!
Nevertheless, this little fact was quickly overshadowed by the sheer loveliness and genuinely infectious personalities of Emma and the rest of her colleagues. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these ladies were completely professional, social, and just plain fun to be around; they made us completely forget that it was a Monday. After the office tours, the ladies retired to the cafeteria to get ready for their routines. As one could have guessed, I had the honor of warming up the crowd of 175 people crammed into the cafeteria. The phrase, “Ladies and gentlemen… for the first time in NATO history, the often imitated, never equaled, world-famous Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders,” gave way to a short, but absolutely dazzling performance that completely blew away the crowd. The men, women, and especially the children in attendance were all impressed by the agility and gymnastic abilities of the cheerleaders. It is undeniably clear why the DCC is America’s premiere cheerleading squad after seeing them perform. Before their performance, I’m not sure how true the “world famous” qualification was, but there is no doubt now. I received numerous comments the following day from representatives of all of the nations at the NPC praising the DCC’s visit and their spectacular performance.
Subsequent to the performance, the cheerleaders stayed on hand to sign more autographs for everyone in the crowd. When dinnertime rolled around, we situated the cheerleaders so that one there would be at least one lady per table. Megan Fox, from my hometown back in Texas, had the pleasure of eating next to the King. It was great to see a girl from back home and be able to discuss life in our little part of Texas. Since I do not head back to the states very much, it is always a real treat to meet a fellow Texan these days, even more so when she is with the DCC. It was also nice to get an insight into the life of cheerleader. From what I was told by Megan, it sounds like these girls work like there is no tomorrow. I can’t imagine doing so many workouts, rehearsals, and game days while going to school full-time. I thought I had a busy schedule until after talking to her.
Dinner went well, and I was very glad that our chef, Vincenzo, included penne in the three types of pasta he handcrafted for the evening. As always, by the time the food arrived I was starving and I personally devoured two full plates of pasta. At the end of the dinner, the DCC made a surprise presentation to one of die-hard Dallas Cowboys fans with a framed Cowboys jersey signed by all of the DCC. This came as a complete shock to Rick, who I think went right home afterwards to clear a space on the wall for the frame. The DCC then presented me with an official DCC diary so that “I could continue to record thoughts for my website.” Not being the kind of guy to pass up an opportunity, I quickly wrote, “Hail to the King, baby!” on the diary and ran up to join them for a quick photo op. Following the dinner, I escorted the DCC to their hotel as they prepared for another round of tours on the next day.
The DCC’s time at the NPC was barely half a day, but it’s certainly no cliché to say that their legacy will live on for many, many years. Thank you Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders for coming to visit us, thank you Armed Forces Entertainment and United Services Organization for making it possible, and thanks to everyone at the NPC who helped me realize this dream.
Hail to the King, baby!
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