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AFCENT band builds relationships with a universal language

The U.S. Air Forces Central Command Band collaborates with local musician near Salalah, Oman Aug. 12, 2018. The U.S. Embassy in Oman organized the cultural exchange. The AFCENT Band has a mission to develop relationships across the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility on behalf of the United States and the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Dustin Doyle)

The U.S. Air Forces Central Command band collaborates with local musician near Salalah, Oman, Aug. 12, 2018. The U.S. Embassy in Oman organized the cultural exchange. The AFCENT Band has a mission to develop relationships across the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility on behalf of the United States and the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Dustin Doyle)

AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar (AFNS) -- The U.S. Air Forces Central Command band is the only deployed band in the Air Force, covering 17 of the 20 countries in the area of responsibility. Some places are so remote that the locals have never experienced live music.

Capt. Dustin Doyle, AFCENT band officer in charge, is the orchestrator for this one-of-a-kind band. His duty: promote and educate the band’s mission and coordinate with local officials and embassies to find venues for the band to perform.

“Our mission is to assist the AFCENT commander create positive ways for our two cultures to engage and develop relationships on behalf of the U.S. Air Force and the United States of America,” said Doyle. “We can become the tip of the spear, using soft power, to engage with music. This allows us to enhance U.S. Central Command’s theater security cooperation efforts and ultimately provides the band with more future engagements.”

With performances ranging from playing for dignitaries to children and community elders, these expert musicians take each performance seriously. The number of gigs the AFCENT band plays within their 3-month tour rivals what the stateside Air Force bands would play in a whole year.

“On average, the AFCENT band performs 45 times during their 3-month tour; roughly a concert every-other-day,” said Doyle. “This mission has a very high operations tempo compared to bands in the states. We seldom practice because, just like every other job in the Air Force, once your boots hit the ground we are tasking you to perform.”

The multitude of performances couldn’t happen without the thousands of pounds of music equipment that needs to be packed specifically for each concert. However, unlike back home, these Airmen musicians move virtually everything themselves.

“We have over 5,000 lbs of equipment we have to lug to each performance,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Stahl, AFCENT band superintendent. “We load them onto custom built pallets, built to specifications noted by the airframe’s loadmasters, for every trip we take. Once we land, we unload, set up, break down and pack up everything for the next gig. Compared to the states, it’s the same process except with fewer people, rehearsal and prep time and rest between performances.”

The U.S. Air Force has used music for decades as an effective diplomatic tool. Music, in and of itself, has an innate quality to exist without language barriers and bring people together despite vast differences.

“Back in 2013, we had several gigs in an area in Kyrgyzstan where a large portion of the population was illiterate,” said Doyle. “We worked with the U.S. Embassy to engage with several small villages and inform them about their culture and heritage and share U.S. culture and heritage through music and picture handouts. Even with the language barrier, we used music as a unique way to bridge cultures and develop relationships in an otherwise tough environment.”

“I’m proud of what we do and I’m humbled to work with musicians and Airmen of such quality on so many levels,” said Doyle. “We go to places with people who have never seen or interacted with Americans and we leave lasting impressions of that they think about the U.S. Air Force. Not only that, we also represent the professionalism of our Airmen. It’s humbling to be entrusted with such a high honor.”

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