Price: Troops' Morale In Iraq Is High

If you assume the morale of United States forces serving in Iraq is low, your assumption is wrong, according to Dave Price.

The Early Show weatherman and features reporter just returned from a five-day trip, during which he joined the Charlie Daniels Band entertaining some 22,000 troops on four bases in Iraq and Kuwait.

On Tuesday, he gave his personal account of the trip, as well as recounting his conversations with soldiers and Marines.

Price said his chats with military personnel were "completely at random, with no coaching from the military" and "about their mission, their morale, and what it's like to serve in one of the most hostile places on Earth."

He readily pointed out, "There are people at CBS News who routinely cover the war in Iraq. I am not one of them. Truth is, I usually try to avoid places where you need to wear a flak vest."

Price looked squarely into the camera on a base at the start of the trip and said, "We're excited to perform and ready to go, but it's Iraq. It's Iraq."

"After I got home from Afghanistan last year," Price recalled, "I made a commitment to return to entertain the troops overseas. … I couldn't pass up the chance to go with Charlie Daniels … but I was a little apprehensive. Luckily, I never had time to sit and worry."

The best way to get around Iraq these days is by chopper: It's faster and a lot safer than traveling by land convoy. That's how Price and the band made it from place to place.

During the day, said Price, "We'd visit the smaller camps, known as Forward Operating Bases, such as the one at Habbinayah, and do shows for people who hadn't seen any entertainers in months, because getting there is just too risky.

An Army Maj. McSherry told Price, "It's one of the most dangerous areas in Iraq. (On) the stretch of highway we cover for Charlie Company, over 400 IEDs (improvised explosive devices) (have been found) in the last 10 months. About 75 percent of them they defeat, but about 25 percent go off and cause casualties."

They'd lost someone the day before Price spoke to McSherry.