About 10,000 Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, Marines and support forces across the Middle East are being transported to a galaxy far, far away for a much-deserved break thanks to a partnership between the Exchange and The Walt Disney Studios.
The deployed troops are being treated to free showings of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” – in some cases, before the movie debuted in the United States. The screenings began Dec. 18 in United Arab Emirates and are continuing in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia through Jan. 5.
Director/CEO Tom Shull and Ken Caldwell, executive vice president and general sales manager for North American Sales and Distribution at The Walt Disney Studios, deployed a team of Exchange military and senior leaders to hand-carry secured copies of the highly anticipated film throughout the Middle East.
“Bringing this movie to the troops during this special time of year was the right thing to do,” Shull said. “Our Nation’s deployed heroes deserve a chance to see ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ during its initial run. Being here with our Warfighters as they experience this movie has been truly amazing and is a testament to the strong partnership between Disney and the Exchange.”
The Exchange has teamed up with The Walt Disney Studios since 2012 to bring first-run movies to deployed troops. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi” both played for troops downrange because of this partnership. Screening first-run movies is an essential part of the Exchange’s mission and relevancy—the movies bring a taste of home and a chance for Warfighters to recover from the stresses of deployment.
In Afghanistan this week, crowds awaiting “The Rise of Skywalker” reminisced about where they saw the last two installments of “Star Wars.”
“Having seen the last two showings of the ‘Star Wars’ saga while being deployed, I know all too well how valuable it is for troop morale to enjoy a huge release like this, especially during the holidays,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Barrett Taylor, 418th Contracting Support Brigade. “Thank you to Disney and the Exchange for personally bringing these movies to the troops.”
Marine Brig. Gen. Brian Wolford, Bagram Airfield commander, said the chance to see the film is a welcome respite for those serving far from home.
“Thanks to Disney and Exchange for delivering this slice of home to our service members during the holidays,” Wolford said.
Staff Sgt. Trevor Gutknecht with the 329th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion echoed that sentiment.
“It is an amazing break from our time here in Afghanistan, allowing us to decompress,” he said.