Laughing through the Middle East

Published on FLTLT Daniel Phillips (author), SGT Murray Staff (photographer)

Topic(s): Operations

Comedians Anthony ‘Lehmo’ Lehmann, right, and Mick Molloy perform for personnel serving with Australia's Air Task Group deployed to the Middle East Region. (photo: SGT Murray Staff)
Comedians Anthony ‘Lehmo’ Lehmann, right, and Mick Molloy perform for personnel serving with Australia's Air Task Group deployed to the Middle East Region.

Comedians Mick Molloy and Anthony ‘Lehmo’ Lehmann brought the laughs, while rock band 28 Days belted out the tunes, during a Forces Entertainment tour across the Middle East recently.

The tour performed for personnel deployed as part of Operations HIGHROAD (Afghanistan), MANITOU (Maritime Security), OKRA (Air Task Group) and ACCORDION (operational support) during February and March, funded by the Returned and Services League of Australia.

The tour in Afghanistan kicked off in Kabul for Operation HIGHROAD in early March, where they performed for troops from Australia and other coalition nations as part of the multi-national Resolute Support mission.

Mick Molloy, a veteran of several Forces Entertainment tours, said he had more of a chance to appreciate what he saw this time around compared with previous versions.

“The tour moves at a pretty hectic pace so there’s a bit of a sensory overload,” he said.

“We played mainly to Australians but also to people from many other countries in Afghanistan.

“I’ve been constantly aware of the responsibility attached to the role we’re doing at the moment and how important it is to get this right.

“I’m always blown away by how happy the troops are that we’ve made the trip and how happy they are that people at home are thinking of them.

“I think sometimes it’s probably lost on the general public how important it is to the troops.”

Jay Dunne, 28 Days’ lead singer, said he had the time of his life performing for the troops.

“We were really keen to do the tour - I understand what it’s like to be away from home touring all the time,” he said.

“It really feels like something you have to see for yourself to be able to describe.

“We got to Kabul and it was stunning. The guys pointed to a hill which is quite close and said rockets sometimes get shot at them.

“The troops are really down to earth here and enjoyed the show.”

Australian personnel in Kabul are deployed in a variety of roles focused on training, advising and assisting the Afghan National Security Forces.

The tour also visited Camp Qargha where it performed for troops providing training and force protection for the Afghan National Army Officer Training Academy.

The performers enjoyed every minute in front of the multi-national audience despite the near blizzard conditions and the road move in Bushmasters through the streets of Kabul.

Even though this is Lehmo’s sixth tour, he said he had not lost the desire to play for Australians on operations.

“For me personally I absolutely love these trips,” he said.

“There’s nothing quite like the roar of a 100 soldiers laughing at your jokes.

“I've spoken with many soldiers individually and they’ve told me about what they’re doing here.

“It is dangerous work and it’s a joy for me to be able to bring a piece of Australia here to give them some relief from what they're doing day-to-day.”

After Kabul, the tour moved on to Camp Baker, Kandahar, where they set up for a more intimate show for mainly Australian and US troops where Australian Defence Forces personnel provide force protection, transport and advisers to the 205th Corps Coalition Advisory Team.

The tour also included performances in the region including shows for sailors onboard HMAS Success, Australia's main logistics base in the Middle East and the Air Task Group.

More images are available at the Defence Image Gallery