After the band’s amazing dose of ‘boot camp’, it was time to gear up for the show. Maj. Gen. James M. Milano came out on stage to introduce the band, and say some words for the troopsJim Beam’s own, Fred Noe then came out to thank everyone for coming out, and to introduce the band as wellBig Daddy Kev then stormed the stage to get the crowd hyped up. The crowd was insane by this point!rnShowtime. As you can see… there were a TON of peopleI wasn’t aware that the crowd would be split like this… soldiers one one side, civilians on the other. It definitely made for a sight to seeRichard kept things moving on bassWhile Paul was doing the same on guitarBrit layed down the tempo for everyone behind the drumsBrandon on keysCharlie on vocals/guitarThe soldiers had so much energy, and were VERY apparently LOVING the showAll it took was a slight turn of the camera, and they would all go crazy!rnThis snap of Paul looks crazy with the giant spotlight shining down on himAfter the show, Maj. Gen. Milano presented the band with an amazing plaqueIt reads “Thank you for all you do in your continued support of Soldiers and their families. You are True Patriots!! Fort Jackson, SC, September 11, 2010″That wraps things up from Fort Jackson. Our time on-base was definitely a unique experience, and one I am extremely honored to have experienced with the guys!
After lunch we were taken to a firearms simulator. It housed MANY virtual firing lanes, in which M16 assault rifles were modified with an air system that accurately simulated recoilUsing laser projections, you fire at a screen that simulates an array of different environments. It records all shots, hit or miss. Then you can review all the data after the session to see how accurate you were, shot/kill ratio, etc. It was really interesting, and extremely difficultHere they brought up a funny simulation where turkeys are attacking you. You had to shoot them several times, until they explodeBrandon gunnin’ them downBrit and Richard went prone for more stabiltyPaul taking out some enemiesCharlie doing the sameAfter 3 different environments (including one on Mars), the boys got to use the video simulator… that is shot with live-action video/actors to mimic real-life scenarios that soldiers will encounter in the sand boxrnYou weren’t allowed to shoot anything until there was a threat. Even if someone had a rifle… if they weren’t pointing it at you or someone else you couldn’t shoot. Here Brit is waiting for someone to make a moveThey told us how this simulator, while expensive to build… saves the Army millions of dollars annually in live ammunition. This is the first stop for soldiers in training who may have never held a firearm in their life. This way they get acclimated with the weapons before they ever fire a live roundAfter we wrapped things up in the simulator, Drill Sargeant Ferguson let Richard try on his body armorThen it was back to the bus to get ready for the show. I snapped a group shot of the band with their Drill Sargeants: Ferguson, Crump, and Johnson… all of which were amazing hosts, and answered every question we threw at themThis tour/boot camp was really something special. I couldn’t help but think during our stay… how many people get this sort of tour? It can’t be a lot. The hospitality of the Army, and Fort Jackson to give the band an experience like this is TOP NOTCH.
To honor our troops on September 11th, Kid Rock put on a HUGE show at Fort Jackson. He invited Blackberry Smoke to share the stage for the event, and I was lucky enough to tag along and document the day’s happenings… which included a boot camp of sorts and tour of the base for the bandUpon our arrival we were all given U.S. Army hats. Here, Brit is proudly displaying his, before getting suited up for repellingPaul and Charlie were all ready to go… and were having a laugh at the others getting all tied inDrill Sargeant Ferguson gave them a quick lesson on how to lean back and let your ‘guide hand’ stop you in the event of trouble. Here he is demonstrating how you can hold all your weight with one hand. This tower had an incline to it to prepare them for the next round of repelling actionAfter the demonstration, it was time to scale the tower. rnRichard went firstThen CharlieNext up was BritThen PaulAnd finally, BrandonNext up was the 45-foot tower. No incline here, and much more intimidating. This gentleman set the tone for not to do things. You can see about half-way down, his decent goes awry, and he slams hard enough to make a shock-wave. Luckily, the material he fell on is finely shredded tires – which was surprisingly softThis soldier was climbing down this giant rope wall. About 3/4 of the way down they would have to drop off backwards onto a giant pad filled with air. It looked scary!rnLucky for the band… there was a stairwell that led them to the top of the tower. It didn’t seem so bad from the ground – but once up top… it was VERY intimidating! Here the boys are sizing things upBrit was the brave one, and went down the wall firstRichard had some solid hangtime on his way downBrandon repelled nextThen it was Charlie’s turnAnd finally Paul’s chance at deathHere you can see Drill Sargeant Ferguson recapping what they just did through the reflection in Charlie’s glasses. Everyone agreed that by the time they got about 2/3 down the wall, it got easier… and they wanted a bit more wall to repel down before they reached the groundNext it was off to check out soliders being trained in MMA hand-to-hand combat. We got to try Army-issue ‘Gatorade’, called Victory Juice. It was REALLY goodAfter we observed the fight training… it was time for lunch! I was fascinated how the soldiers stand in line for the cafeteria. I also thought this photo was cool considering the painting on the wallIt really was an honor to be on base on September 11thThe guys enjoying Army food. I’m sure if you eat it every day… it gets old – but we all enjoyed the food. I thought it was really good!rnSo good, in fact… that I took more than I could finish. I had chicken and rice (sweet & sour-ish), cottage cheese, veggies, and a heaping of baked beans. I was STUFFEDStay tuned for more from Fort Jackson, as we get to enter a firearms simulator and do some shooting!
Back in 2006, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to go on safari in East Africa with my family. None of us had any idea what a beautiful and magical journey lay ahead for us. It would be a voyage that would forever change us allI recently came across an old disc filled with about 500 photos on it that I shot along the way. The safari company highly advised against shooting digital, since venues to charge electronics wouldn’t be readily available… so using a 35mm Nikon S90s, and a 300mm 1:4 f4, I did my best to capture Africa as we saw itI remember getting the photos back shortly after our return to the U.S. in ’06 and being amazed at what I brought back. Nearly 4 years have passed, and although this amazing trip resonates with me daily… I had honestly forgot about these photos. This time, upon viewing the photos… I wasn’t just impressed – I nearly fell out of my office chair… dumbfounded with the very same photographsAs I browsed the trove of stunning images, a warm feeling crept up my spine… and I had what might be one of the most significant epiphanies as an artist to date. An epiphany so monumental that I might not ever have another one like itOver the past 10 years, I have been very focused on my love for video (both shooting and editing). In this focus, not only did I lose sight of my love for photography… but it also managed to slip my mind that I was even any good at it. How is that even possible?!?rnSo with this warm feeling running through my body… I felt an overwhelming validation, as a photographer, and more importantly – AS AN ARTIST. I am convinced that part of being an artist is to encompass a sense of self-doubt… that what you are creating is no good – and can always be better. While the latter is definitely true, these photos made me rethink (and dismiss) that doubt… replacing it with a sense of confidenceThis photoset has totally re-vitalized my passion for photography. A passion that has been lying dormant for FAR too long. Yet one more way that this amazing trip to East Africa has changed my life. To think that the magic we encountered there is still having dramatic effects on my life four years later is astounding. It is another testament to how amazing Africa really is.I put the rest of the photographs up on Flickr. I figured since these images had been locked away in a closet for so long… their time was overdue to be shared.They mean to me and my family something more than words can truly convey. I hope you enjoy them.