Last year, the Ravens cheerleaders traveled inside the Arctic Circle to visit troops in chilly Greenland. And while that 23-hour excursion was very much appreciated by the cheerleaders and troops alike, this year's tour is expected to be far different.
This time, the Ravens are headed right into the thick of the action.
Sponsored by Armed Forces Entertainment, 13 Ravens cheerleaders will depart Sunday for the tiny island of Bahrain, east of Saudia Arabia and south of Iran, for seven days. Then they will head west to Djibouti, the coastal country north of Somalia on Africa's east coast, for four days.
It's the first time the cheerleaders have been to the Middle East since 2004 when they went to Iraq and Kuwait. And the group is expecting a warm welcome back.
"I think there's definitely going to be a strong crowd, a big crowd," said Jon, the emcee of the trip. "They're going to be going nuts."
Many of the soldiers based in Greenland were scientists who were rather low-key. So when the Ravens started their performance, they didn't get the reaction they expected.
"They were kind of quiet at first and taken aback," Jaime said. "I thought I heard crickets chirping."
It shouldn't take much to get the soldiers in the Middle East warmed up. This year's Ravens squad features three dancers (Angel, Paige and Abbie) backed up by five high-flyers (Jaime, Lauren, Meaghan S. and Andrea). And of course the girls are bringing along the guys (Jon, Greg, Chris, Nick, Brian and Paul).
The Ravens Cheerleaders, who are still the only NFL team with a male stunt crew, are planning an interactive show for the soldiers. There will be push-up contests, a dance contest and hands-on lessons on how to lift the female cheerleaders.
"I feel like it's something new for a lot of people," Jaime said. "They probably think we're a bunch of freaks for flying up in the air. It's a bit of the circus we're taking over there."
The last time the Ravens cheerleaders were in the Middle East, the base on which they were performing was attacked with mortar shells. In fact, a band performing on a different side of the base had a member struck by shrapnel.
For the Ravens cheerleaders, that just drives home how important it is for them to give back to the soldiers who risk their lives defending our country.
"These soldiers are doing something incredible for us," Jon said. "I wouldn't be a person to sign up for the military, so this is my way of giving back and giving them a break from the monotony of the day-to-day. The whole premise of the show is to bring a slice of home to these guys."