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Full Spectrum builds international partnerships through music

Technical Sgt. Richard Vasquez, U.S. Air Forces Central Command band, Full Spectrum vocalist, teaches local youth how to play percussion in Balykchi City central square, Kyrgyzstan, July 19, 2013. The AFCENT band invited locals of all ages to learn how to play instruments. The concert was part of the AFCENT band’s mission to build international partnerships. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Krystie Martinez)

Technical Sgt. Richard Vasquez teaches local youth how to play percussion July 23, 2013, in Balykchi City central square, Kyrgyzstan. The AFCENT band invited locals of all ages to learn how to play instruments. The concert was part of the AFCENT band’s mission to build international partnerships. Vasquez is a U.S. Air Forces Central Command band, Full Spectrum vocalist. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Krystie Martinez)

Technical Sgt. Edward Williams, U.S. Air Forces Central Command band, Full Spectrum drummer, performs in Karakol City central square, Kyrgyzstan, July 17, 2013. The AFCENT band’s performances were the highlight of an American Corners decennial celebration tour, sponsored by the U.S. Embassy, Bishkek. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Krystie Martinez)

Technical Sgt. Edward Williams performs July 17, 2013, in Karakol City central square, Kyrgyzstan. The AFCENT band’s performances were the highlight of an American Corners decennial celebration tour, sponsored by the U.S. Embassy, Bishkek. Williams is a U.S. Air Forces Central Command band, Full Spectrum drummer. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Krystie Martinez)

Senior Master Sgt. Keith Erb, U.S. Air Forces Central Command band, Full Spectrum NCO in charge and guitarist, performs in Cholpon-Ata City central square, Kyrgyzstan, July 18, 2013. This was one of multiple performances throughout local Kyrgyz towns. The AFCENT band often encouraged the crowd to sing and dance along with the musicians.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Krystie Martinez)

Senior Master Sgt. Keith Erb, U.S. Air Forces Central Command band, Full Spectrum NCO in charge and guitarist, performs July 23, 2013, in Cholpon-Ata City central square, Kyrgyzstan. This was one of multiple performances throughout local Kyrgyz towns. The AFCENT band often encouraged the crowd to sing and dance along with the musicians. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Krystie Martinez)

Technical Sgt. Christopher Stelling, left, Senior Airman Carl Stanley, center, and Master Sgt. John Cisar, right, U.S. Air Forces Central Command, Full Spectrum bandsmen, perform in Karakol City central square, Kyrgyzstan, July 17, 2013. The U.S. Embassy in Bishkek sponsored the five-day tour as part of a cultural exchange program called American Corners. The goal is to strengthen relationships between American and Kyrgyz people.  Full Spectrum is a 10-person band deployed from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Krystie Martinez)

Technical Sgt. Christopher Stelling, left, Senior Airman Carl Stanley, center, and Master Sgt. John Cisar, right, U.S. Air Forces Central Command, Full Spectrum bandsmen, perform July 23, 2013, in Karakol City central square, Kyrgyzstan. The U.S. Embassy in Bishkek sponsored the five-day tour as part of a cultural exchange program called American Corners. The goal is to strengthen relationships between American and Kyrgyz people. Full Spectrum is a 10-person band deployed from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Krystie Martinez)

Staff Sgt. Rachel Trimble, U.S. Air Forces Central Command band, Full Spectrum vocalist, performs in Karakol City central square, Kyrgyzstan, July 17, 2013. Trimble’s versatility allows her to rap, sing and dance during performances. Full Spectrum is deployed from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Krystie Martinez)

Staff Sgt. Rachel Trimble, U.S. Air Forces Central Command band, Full Spectrum vocalist, performs July 23, 2013, in Karakol City central square, Kyrgyzstan. Trimble’s versatility allows her to rap, sing and dance during performances. Full Spectrum is deployed from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Krystie Martinez)

Technical Sgt. Richard Vasquez, U.S. Air Forces Central Command band, Full Spectrum vocalist, jokes with a Kyrgyz boy prior to performing at Bokonbaevo village, Kyrgyzstan, July 16, 2013. Full Spectrum toured local villages to bring a piece of American culture to Kyrgyz people. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Krystie Martinez)

Technical Sgt. Richard Vasquez jokes with a Kyrgyz boy prior to performing July 16, 2013, at Bokonbaevo village, Kyrgyzstan. Full Spectrum toured local villages to bring a piece of American culture to Kyrgyz people. Vasquez is a U.S. Air Forces Central Command band, Full Spectrum vocalist. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Krystie Martinez)

U.S. Air Forces Central Command band, Full Spectrum vocalists, Technical Sgt. Richard Vasquez and Staff Sgt. Rachel Trimble, teach audience members a choreographed dance at Balykchi City central square, Kyrgyzstan, July 19, 2013. Audience participation was a staple of the AFCENT band’s performances. U.S. Air forces Central Command rotates several ensembles through the area of responsibility. The ensembles perform a variety of musical genres to appeal to audiences of all ages and backgrounds. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Krystie Martinez)

U.S. Air Forces Central Command band, Full Spectrum vocalists, Technical Sgt. Richard Vasquez and Staff Sgt. Rachel Trimble, teach audience members a choreographed dance July 23, 2013, at Balykchi City central square, Kyrgyzstan. Audience participation was a staple of the AFCENT band’s performances. U.S. Air forces Central Command rotates several ensembles through the area of responsibility. The ensembles perform a variety of musical genres to appeal to audiences of all ages and backgrounds. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Krystie Martinez)

Technical Sgt. Christopher Stelling, U.S. Air Forces Central Command band, Full Spectrum saxophone player, teaches a Kyrgyz boy how to play a tambourine in Karakol City central square, Kyrgyzstan, July 17, 2013. The AFCENT band toured four local towns, bringing American music to all ages. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Krystie Martinez)

Technical Sgt. Christopher Stelling teaches a Kyrgyz boy how to play a tambourine July 23, 2013, in Karakol City central square, Kyrgyzstan. The AFCENT band toured four local towns, bringing American music to all ages. Stelling is a U.S. Air Forces Central Command band, Full Spectrum saxophone player. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Krystie Martinez)

Staff Sgt. Aaron Weibe, U.S. Air Forces Central Command band, Full Spectrum guitarist, teaches a Kyrgyz teen how to play a guitar in Karakol City central square, Kyrgyzstan, July 17, 2013. The AFCENT band offered music lessons to audience members before and after the performance. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Krystie Martinez)

Staff Sgt. Aaron Weibe teaches a Kyrgyz teen how to play a guitar July 23, 2013, in Karakol City central square, Kyrgyzstan. The AFCENT band offered music lessons to audience members before and after the performance. Weibe is a U.S. Air Forces Central Command band, Full Spectrum guitarist. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Krystie Martinez)

U.S. Air Forces Central Command band, Full Spectrum, performs in Karakol City central square, Kyrgyzstan, July 17, 2013. The AFCENT band played various genres for audience members including jazz, pop, country and reggae. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Krystie Martinez)
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U.S. Air Forces Central Command band, Full Spectrum, performs July 23, 2013, in Karakol City central square, Kyrgyzstan. The AFCENT band played various genres for audience members including jazz, pop, country and reggae. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Krystie Martinez)

U.S. Air Forces Central Command band, Full Spectrum, builds a pallet prior to departing Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, July 23, 2013. The 10-person band set up and tore down their own equipment, weighing almost two tons. Full Spectrum is deployed from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Krystie Martinez)
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U.S. Air Forces Central Command band, Full Spectrum, builds a pallet July 23, 2013, prior to departing Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan. The 10-person band set up and tore down their own equipment, weighing almost two tons. Full Spectrum is deployed from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Krystie Martinez)

TRANSIT CENTER AT MANAS, Kyrgyzstan (AFNS) --

She had never heard the song before, nor did she understand the words, but as the band played she started dancing and after a few verses she tried singing along. The language didn't matter, she could feel the music.  

Full Spectrum, a U.S. Air Forces Central Command band, recently toured the Issyk-Kul region of Kyrgyzstan, bringing American culture to local towns through the international language of music.

Guljamal Arstanbekova, a journalism student at Kyrgyzstan-Turkey Manas University, attended the first of four AFCENT band performances. She's lived in Bokonbaevo Village since birth and this was her first Air Force band experience.

"The performance was great, the atmosphere here is really awesome," she said with the help of a translator. "I think these events are really important and interesting because a lot of people want to go to the United States and this is a chance for them to get knowledge of something. I'm a bit nervous and excited; this is really cool what people are doing here."

 The 10-person band, deployed from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., performed in town squares throughout the local area, along with performances at the Transit Center for deployed service members.

"Our biggest purpose out here is to help strengthen the relations between the United States and the local communities," said Airman 1st Class Justin Cockerham, a Full Spectrum pianist. "We're also here to support troop morale. When you deploy there's a lot of stress and it's nice to have a band come out here and make you feel like you're at home for a little while."

Strengthening relations between Americans and Kyrgyz was not only the goal of Full Spectrum; the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek sponsored the band's tour across the community as part of its American Corners program decennial celebration.

The American Corners program provides a path of communication and mutual understanding between American and Kyrgyz people, allowing an exchange of languages, cultures and life experiences. This goal is achieved through a variety of events such as English language clubs, movie nights, conversation classes, holiday celebrations and lectures by guest speakers.

For the bandsmen, it was an opportunity to interact with the local community.

"This is something special, because the U.S. Embassy has a program called American Corners, which is a good opportunity for not only us, but for people with the U.S. Embassy to interact directly with the youth of this nation through talking and games," said Master Sgt. John Cisar, the Full Spectrum assistant NCO in charge and trombonist. "We've sort of augmented that with our music."

The embassy provided books, seating and activities prior to the concerts, allowing a smooth introduction and icebreaker for the AFCENT band. This support fostered one-on-one time with the audience prior to performing.

"We danced with them, had a good time, and showed them a little bit about the instruments," said Tech. Sgt. Edward Williams, a Full Spectrum drummer. "I had kids on the drums and took pictures with them and their families."

He said the interaction with the audience made all the hard work and being away from his family worth it.

"It's hard on our families, they miss us a lot," Williams said. "But telling them the stories that we bring back from these deployments ... they understand. So it's not so bad."

Not only were the musicians performing, they worked hard before and after each show. They set up their equipment, weighing almost two tons, a couple hours prior to each performance. After the show they tore down the set and packed up before moving to the next location.

 "We are our own load crew, our own roadies, our own guitar techs, our own everything, from the lowest ranking Airman to the senior NCOs and officer," said Senior Master Sgt. Keith Erb, the Full Spectrum NCO in charge and guitarist.

 This band doesn't shy away from hard work and dedication, the musicians said, because they understand the importance of their mission.

"I think performing for the youth is really a great opportunity, because it's a chance for us to connect with the young culture and to plant some seeds for the future," Cisar said.

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