Saturday, September 17, 2011

Beginning of the End

As the last weeks of this deployment roll by, I find it increasingly difficult to focus on writing a blog. The psychological toll of being in a deployed environment, and the physical toll of changing work hours, lack of quality sleep, and an increasingly dusty atmosphere that is treating my respiratory system like Rocky pounding sides of meat have dampened my desire to write about what's going on. Combined with the cooler-but-still-draining heat of the day and my down time is increasingly consumed with an urge to be as inactive as possible, not counting time spent working out in the gym or practicing.

The focus of this all-too-delayed entry is the final job of my primary group, the "Bunker Brass" Quintet. Our quintet was the first functioning ensemble to arrive at Kandahar Air Field back in October, with only our commander and two "unit movement officers" arriving before us. (The UMO's are responsible for coordinating the shipping and placement of the containers holding our equipment, and as such had to be among the first people on the ground. Had they not been effective, our quintet would have arrived with no instruments to play!) We performed our first mission just a few days after our arrival, and performed numerous morale and ceremonial jobs afterwards, sometimes traveling to other Forward Operating Bases and even once into Kandahar City. The Bunker Brass performed its final mission in Afghanistan on August 25, 2011 for the Role 3 Medical Clinic (the hospital on KAF), which was holding a "transfer of authority" ceremony to mark the transition from one commanding officer to another. Because the hospital is located next to the actual airport runway to facilitate quick movement of incoming casualties to the hospital, the ceremony was interrupted several times by the roar of incoming or outgoing aircraft. In fact, the ceremony was delayed slightly by a medical team rushing from the airfield to the ER with patients in tow, a sobering reminder that a lot of people over here have much tougher jobs than I do.

In terms of the performance, it was a by-the-book mission like many others we have done: some light "fun" pre-music, the National Anthem, the service songs of the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Army. But as the final performance of our "original" music group, it felt a bit different. Since then, three members of the quintet have already returned home to their families while a couple of us have remained with a skeleton crew of bandsmen to pack up everything else and assist with the transition for the 82nd Airborne Division Band that will be taking on our job here. But it is a good feeling to know that the next time we all perform together again, we'll be back home in the US!

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