AFCENT band rocks for the troops in Afghanistan

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. David Salanitri
  • U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs
Being deployed can often feel like Groundhog Day. Each day is a repeat of the day before, and the only variable is whether or not they'll have bacon or turkey sausage at the dining facility in the morning.

Members of the U.S. Air Forces Central Band Nightwing are currently on tour, playing for joint and coalition service members around Afghanistan.

Nightwing, comprised of seven Airmen, have been deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility for about three months. They have played in many locations throughout Southwest Asia, but for them, getting to play for the troops in Afghanistan has been one of the most rewarding experiences they've gone through.

"If we can play for people and help them forget where they are, then we've done our job," said Master Sgt. Rick Baisden, NCO in charge of the band and guitar player. "Each gig, our goal is for the folks out here on the front lines to connect with our music."
Watching joint and coalition forces respond to Nightwing's concert, two types of audience members stick out.

The day dreamer -- the audience member who wears a mellow look on his or her face, and seems as though he or she is day dreaming. It almost appears as though the music brought them to a different place ... maybe even their happy place?

The karaoke-er. Come on. We all know who this person is. In this case, it's the service member who's singing or screaming along to the song like they're in their car, playing air-microphone along to their favorite song while driving to work.

No matter what kind of person stops by for a song, Nightwing will not disappoint.
Though Nightwing's concerts are a lot of fun, it's only one of the important gigs they play.

During a trip to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, the band broke down their pallet containing all of their equipment, and grabbed a handful of acoustic instruments.

One of the fantastically beautiful things about Nightwing is that they don't care how big their audience is. Baisden often says, "three people or 300 people, it doesn't matter. We'll put on a show for anyone," and his words couldn't be any more true.

As the band walks into the Role Three Hospital on Kandahar Airfield, they start softly playing for a room full of wounded warriors. While playing, a service member laying in his hospital bed struggled, fighting off his tears. Making eye contact with him, the band asks him if he has any requests. Whipping off his tears, the warrior replies "anything country," which isn't hard for the band's seeming infinitely-long playlist. Though Nightwing may be a rock band at heart, they'll play any song to put a smile on their audience's face.

Something very important that the band does is their informal acoustic gigs -- from hospitals to workstations throughout base, each person can appreciate a little change after three month, six month or even a year-long deployment.

"You get into a grind out here, and sometimes it eats away at you," said Airman 1st Class Jonathan Perkins with the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron. "It's cool they came out to play for us. It's refreshing to see something different."

Nightwing and other AFCENT bands regularly make tours throughout Afghanistan.