British band performs in Pentagon courtyard

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Russell P. Petcoff
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
The British Army's 1st Battalion Scots Guards Pipes and Drums Band played in the Pentagon courtyard during lunchtime Sept. 25 as a show of solidarity with the U.S. Armed Forces, according to a British liaison officer to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The unit's performance is "an expression of admiration and appreciation of our alliance," said British Army Lt. Col. William Swinton, a liaison officer in Strategic Plans and Policy Office. 

In a display of the camaraderie, the band played "Scotland the Brave" -- a traditional Scottish anthem -- and immediately afterward "God Bless America."

"We came to (the District of Columbia) for a specific reason," Colonel Swinton said, "to demonstrate the admiration the British military has for the U.S. military."

The band will go to Walter Reed Army Medical Center Sept. 26 to play in salute and appreciation to America's wounded servicemembers, Colonel Swinton said.

The unit is the oldest infantry battalion in the British Army, Colonel Swinton said. Each member of the 20-piece band -- eight pipers, seven drummers, four sword dancers and one drum major -- is a soldier and not a permanent musician. They return Sept. 28 to their base at Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire, England, to begin training for a 2010 deployment to Afghanistan.

"These are front-line soldiers who will be fighting with U.S. Marines in Helmand (Province)," Colonel Swinton said.

The band's appearance brought out many people from the Pentagon to watch the 20-minute performance. One spectator had advance notice of the performance because he wore his Gordon clan tartan kilt.

"I'm in a pipe band, so I'm loving it," said William Germelman, a contractor with the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs Yellow Ribbon program and a drum major to the City of Winchester Pipes and Drum band. "This is just phenomenal."

The band has been in the United States for approximately a month. Some of their performances have been aboard the USS Intrepid in New York Harbor, a Scottish-Irish festival in Estes Park, Colo., and a Scottish Highlands festival in San Francisco. The band also played at the Lincoln Memorial Sept. 24.

Besides the Pentagon, the band has the unique distinction of having played in the Kremlin, Colonel Swinton said.

The band members said they enjoyed playing throughout America but playing in the Pentagon was special, said British Army Sgt. Martin Godsman, the drum major. 

"It's an absolute privilege and honor," Sergeant Godsman said. "To come to the heart of this place is just fantastic."

A battalion drummer also said he enjoyed the opportunity to perform in the Pentagon courtyard. 

"It's a great honor to play in the Pentagon," said British Army Lance Cpl. Robert McCutcheon, a native of Girvan, Scotland. "(It is) something I thought I'd never do." 

The pipe major, also from Girvan, said the band's visit has been well received. 

"The American crowd seems to love the bagpipes," said British Army Color Sgt. Brian Heriot, the pipe major. "Everyone seems to have a Scottish ancestor."