“Operation Thriller” USO Tour Proves a Hit Among Service Men and Women Stationed in Middle East

The USO recently deployed five of today’s most critically acclaimed thriller writers on a week-long USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour to the Middle East.  The tour, known as Operation Thriller, kicked off with a special visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, and National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD.  During their visit, the authors visited with wounded warriors and extended their heartfelt gratitude.  Among the authors traveling on tour are:

· Steve Berry (The Emperor’s Tomb, The Paris Vendetta, The Charlemagne Pursuit and The Venetian Betrayal, among others)

·  David Morrell (First Blood, in which Rambo was created, and The Brotherhood of the Rose)

· Doug Preston (The Monster of Florence and Relic, which later became a number one box office hit)

· James Rollins (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and the Sigma Force series including The Doomsday Key)

· Andy Harp (A Northern Thunder)

Whether writing about Special Forces soldiers (Rollins), Special Agents (Preston) or German troops (Berry), becoming honorary lifetime members of the Association of Intelligence Officers (Morrell) or serving in the U.S. Marine Corp (Harp), each author is an avid supporter of America’s armed forces and a member of the International Thriller Writers (ITW) — the nation’s first and only professional organization devoted solely to thriller authors.

Operation Thriller is scheduled to visit two countries and tour five military posts in just eight days. In addition to visiting military hospitals in and around the nation’s capital, the tour has visited Camp Arifjan in Kuwait and touched the lives of countless troops. During their time on the front lines, the authors will share insider writer techniques, pose for photos and shake hands with troops.  The group will also distribute advance copies of their upcoming novels and lead Q&A sessions.  This is the first USO tour for each participant and the first time the USO has ever sent a group of authors to the combat zone.

National Cartoonists Society Brings Comic Relief to Troops on USO Tour to Germany and Middle East

National Cartoonist Society (NCS) President/cartoonist Jeff Keane (“The Family Circus”) visits troops and brings comic relief to America’s bravest during USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour to Germany and the Middle East. Keane, who is traveling with fellow cartoonists/caricaturists Rick Kirkman (“Baby Blues”), Mike Luckovich, Stephan Pastis (“Pearls Before Swine”), Tom Richmond (MAD Magazine) and Garry Trudeau (“Doonesbury”), are drawing smiles and sketching personalized drawings for hundreds of U.S. troops. This is the second USO tour to the Middle East for Keane, Kirkman, Pastis, Richmond and Trudeau, who traveled together to Kuwait and Iraq in October 2009 and brighten the spirits of more than 1,600 troops, and the first Luckovich.

So far, the group has visited more than 300 troops stationed in Germany. Among the locations visited are the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, USO Warrior Center and Ramstein Air Force Base. In celebration of Veteran’s Day, throughout the week the group will sign autographs, give hugs and spread words of encouragement to America’s troops.  They will also bring laughter to soldiers, listen to war stories and relay their heartfelt thanks.

The NCS traces its association with the USO to World War II, when professional cartoonists made repeated trips overseas to entertain troops.  Whether visiting military hospitals, entertaining troops with chalk talks, or sharing words of encouragement, more than a hundred professional cartoonists and caricaturists have participated in military-related trips since 9/11. In 2008, the USO sponsored eight cartoonists to travel to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, National Naval Medical Center and Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.  Similar trips (with different cartoonists and tour locations) have taken place in 2009 with the most recent one taking place just last month (visiting Walter Reed, National Naval Medical Center, Kuwait and Iraq) featuring Jeff Bacon (“Broadside” and “Greenside”), Dave Coverly (“Speedbump”), Bill Hinds (“Cleats” and “Tank McNamara”), Rob Harrell (“Adam@Home”), Tom Stiglich (“Uncle Joe”), Ed Steckley (MAD Magazine), Ray Alma (MAD Magazine), Mason Mastroianni (“B.C.”), Chad Carpenter (“Tundra”) and Dave Mowder (Disney “Looney Tunes).