Opening communication lines one note at a time
By Senior Airman Racheal E. Watson, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 19, 2015
SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) -- Billy Joel once said, “I think music in itself is healing. It's an explosive expression of humanity. It's something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we're from, everyone loves music.”
The U.S. Air Forces Central Command band is composed of musicians who perform and tour throughout deployed locations to encourage troop morale and diplomacy and outreach to host nation communities. The band applies the healing power of music and the expression of humanity with each show.
“In recent years we have been partnering with embassies to do international community and educational outreach,” said Tech. Sgt. Christin Foley, the band’s NCO in charge and a vocalist. “The band is a great tool for this, a liaison for America and international countries, building stronger partnerships.”
Members of the band also act as educators and mentors by performing in schools for children of all ages. They not only share America's culture, values and music, but also encourage the children to share their country's culture.
“Initially everyone is shy and trying to observe one another, but as we play music, smiles appear on faces and we all recognize the connection we have,” Foley said. “There is a great respect and friendship bond that builds during these moments. Not only do we share our traditions, but they also become more open, excited and proud to share their culture, food and music with us.”
Airman 1st Class Cody Ray Peterson, the band’s keyboardist, recalled a recent trip to the U.S. Embassy in Egypt, where the band performed a celebration of America. He described the beginning of the event to a junior high school dance, with obvious barriers between the groups of people. As soon as the band hit the stage, the division of people in the crowd disappeared and the Americans and Egyptians were one, sharing their passion for music.
“We constantly find ourselves as a positive and subtle liaison between the community and the Air Force and between world leaders, providing morale activities and entertainment so our deployed members can do their jobs more effectively while dealing with the stressors of being away from friends and family,” Foley said.
When the band is not breaking down communication barriers, they are building up the morale for fellow service members.
“Being able to travel through the (area of responsibility), performing for troops is indescribable,” Peterson said. “Seeing the happiness and joy music brings to fellow deployed Airmen is truly amazing. If I can, even if it's just for a minute, put their minds at ease, evoke a smile or remind them of home, then I’ve successfully done my job.”
Sometimes there are no perfect words to ease a conversation, whether it is between nations or settling the minds of comrades. So, the band lets the music do the speaking for them by building upon common ground.
“The power of music has been known to humans in all times and in all cultures,” said Chief Master Sgt. Francesco Jahn, assigned to the Italian Task Force air security office. “Music is a means of expression; music connects emotions, hope, regret, love and our stories. As a form of communication, music connects us with other human beings, our inner spirits and our history in a way that words alone cannot. Music is the human language that bridges cultures, genders and generations. Because of that, I am deeply convinced playing music between coalition forces is so important.”