Wednesday, May 28, 2008
By Peter Mucha
The Philadelphia Inquirer
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Forget the warriors of the football fields.
Five Eagles Cheerleaders will begin entertaining troops in Iraq next week.
Call it a 12-day tour of beauty for Americans doing a tour of duty.
As a kind of warm-up exercise, on Friday they'll unveil some of their show at Willow Grove Air Force Base for military personnel.
Then on Sunday, they'll fly commercial planes to Germany, then Kuwait.
A Black Hawk helicopter will probably take them to whatever base they'll visit first, said cheerleader Kjersti Soberg, a University of the Art dance major.
The itinerary, which might include a half-dozen or more bases, is as secret as an Eagles game plan, she said.
Joining her will be Rachel Washburn, who's also an ROTC cadet; Nikki Bell, one of three sisters on the squad; Madeline Kane, top scorer in last month's audition finale show; and Laura Jenkins, who graduated from the University of the Arts last year.
It's the first time the Eagles have sent cheerleaders to Iraq, though squad members did entertain troops in Bosnia and Kosovo, according to Barbara Zaun, the team's director of cheerleading.
Other NFL teams have sent cheerleaders and former players to Iraq before, she said.
Besides doing some dance routines, the women will conduct trivia contests and giveaways of Eagles gear, including some autographed items.
There might be some singing, too, said Soberg.
"It's really more like a variety show than than their regular performances that you'd see on game days," Zaun said.
The troupe has already been rehearsing for three weeks, Soberg said.
"Everybody asks if we're nervous" about going to a war zone, she said. On the contrary, "I'm thrilled to have this opportunity," she said.
"They reassured us that the bases we're traveling to are completely safe."
Isn't she kind of used to being in danger on the Eagles sidelines, where camera people stumble and players hurtle by?
She hasn't personally been in harm's way, but some cheerleaders have been, if only from slipping because of wind and rain.
"You have to be 100 percent aware of your surroundings at all times," she said.
It's quite a contrast to the squad's most recent trip - shooting an eco-friendly calendar in Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic, where Soberg posed in sand at sunrise.
Still, Soberg is "more than excited" about the trip.
Many of these service people haven't seen American civilians for a long time, she said.
"To be that breath of fresh air is really what we're looking for."