Saturday, July 16, 2011

Independence Day

Monday, July 4th, 2011 was a slightly unusual day for the 10th Mountain Division Band. Even though Kandahar Air Field is home to personnel from many different countries, the Americans are going to celebrate. Many people in the unit were spending the morning involved in a big re-enlistment ceremony: a big event in which General Petraeus, the top military officer of the coalition forces, did the swearing-in duties for a large number of US personnel who were renewing their commitments to the Armed Forces. Some members of the band were providing music, others were re-enlisting. I was not involved in the ceremony, so I was with a small group of people who were helping to set up equipment on the Boardwalk for the afternoon festivities. I also took some time to try fixing my tenor trombone--the "spit valve" had come off the slide and I needed to make repairs before the show, since the trombone is unplayable without a functional valve. (I should like to know that this was a brand new trombone that had only been in use for a few weeks, and this was the second time the valve was causing trouble. Not to insinuate that all Bach 42T trombones have quality control problems, but...really.)
With the band split into separate groups, our transportation was stretched a bit thin, so we ended up hauling the sound gear and several instruments in a pickup truck and a minivan. Fortunately, we managed to get just about all of it in two trips. After taking shifts for lunch/equipment guard, we waited for the rest of the band to arrive at the Boardwalk for the sound check. While most of the performances that I do depend on the natural acoustic power of the instruments, that wouldn't be sufficient for this one. So all the instruments in the band had individual microphones clipped on, which meant that every single instrument had to have its volume individually adjusted. It required some patience, but we managed to finish the sound check with time to spare. I was able to join another member of the band to walk around the various games and activities that were set up in the center of the Boardwalk. (I managed to win a set of Skipbo cards, as a matter of fact.) Then it was time for the show to start.
Task Force Dixie, a Dixieland jazz group, opened the show. Since I'm not in that group, I was able to sit in the shade and listen. The next group was our W00T! Brass Band, which played a mix of funk and soul music. (pictured above) Following that, the 10th Mountain rock band Avalanche did a set of mostly classic rock tunes. By this time, it was starting to get dark and we Linkwere ready for the big finish, sans fireworks of course. The horns from W00T! joined Avalanche to play some patriotic numbers--"Warrior Ethos" (a song based on the Army's "Soldier's Creed"), Toby Keith's "American Soldier," and Phil Driscoll's arrangement of "America the Beautiful," with SSG Jason Bemis doing a pretty good reproduction of Driscoll's chop-busting trumpet solos.
Afterward, we had to pack up. This time we had the band's large tactical truck to haul gear, so the real trick was getting it backed up close to the Boardwalk so we could load equipment into it. By the time we were finished putting all the instruments and equipment back into our tent, it was after 2100 (9 pm) and the heat and activity had completely drained everyone. We were surprised to be given a complete day off on Tuesday to rest and recover, and I think everyone took advantage of the opportunity to sleep in.
It was not a spectacular day, but it was busy and full of music, and I think we helped remind a lot of the Soldiers over here what they're fighting to protect. Not a bad day's work!

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