Establishing a bond: AFCENT Band returns to Afghanistan

  • Published
  • By U.S. Army Spc. Travis Terreo
  • U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs
The U.S. Air Forces Central Command Band, Galaxy, returned to Afghanistan for the first time in more than a year April 16 with three performances in front of audiences of Afghan, coalition and American troops at Hamid Karzai International Airport.

"The AFCENT band plays a key role in developing relationships across the region through their music and performances,” said Lt. Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., the AFCENT commander. “The sharing of U.S. culture and values by the AFCENT band is a perfect complement to the relationships of our military commanders and Embassy leaders with regional partners."

The 777th Special Mission Wing, one of the units the band played for, is one of the largest integrated Afghan and American forces who work side by side in order to carry out aircraft-based missions on a daily basis.

Maj. Gustavo Diaz, the chief of logistics for the 777th SMW Special Advisory Group, explained that the atmosphere between the Afghan and U.S. service members benefited from the band’s performance and created an opportunity to connect on a personal level, leading to enhanced trust and cultural understanding between them.

“These types of events need to happen,” Diaz said. “Performances like these are the best way to strengthen our ties and comradery with our Afghan counterparts.”

With the current mission of training, advising and assisting Afghan National Army soldiers, it is essential that members of the U.S. military develop strong relationships with their Afghan and coalition counterparts.

“These chances to share a little bit of our culture with our Afghan partners are outstanding and give us a unique experience that helps our overall train, advise and assist mission,” said Brig. Gen. Christopher E. Craige, the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing commander. “Simply spending a couple of hours enjoying music and having some laughs goes a long way in fostering long-lasting relationships. The band offers a great morale boost and represents a tremendous asset to our AFCENT team in building partnership capacity."

One event featured the band's music at a morale barbecue hosted by the 777th SMW. As music and laughter filled the air, the scene at the barbecue slowly changed from scattered groups of Afghans and Americans to integrated groups of smiling, relaxed people.

“This event was absolutely great for the (Afghan forces),” said Afghan Air Force Col. Quraishi, the 777th SMW chief of staff. “This is a great way to strengthen our relationship with our American allies.”

The AFCENT band previously took extended trips to Afghanistan, but having not been there for more than one year they took advantage of their visit by putting on three performances for a total of 925 Afghan, U.S. and coalition service members.

“This visit by the band has definitely impacted the way members of different nations are interacting with each other here,” said Turkish Air Force Col. Haluk Durmus, the Base Support Group commander of HKIA. “Most of us work together by phone or email on a daily basis but this is the first time I have seen a lot of the people face to face. It is events like these that really provide opportunities to truly connect.”

During the band’s final performance, interaction between the Afghans and coalition Airmen was visible as U.S. Airmen taught their Afghan counterparts to line dance and joined the band in their performance.

“The band's performances are really important,” said Afghan Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Amin. “Everyone here today was enjoying themselves and making more friends. You could see their hearts growing closer and the relationships becoming stronger.”

The band’s performance resulted in the enhanced integration of the team and aided cultural awareness.

“We are always (talking) about cultural integration, but that normally means we get a glimpse of their culture while we don’t really have anything to bring to the table from our end,” said Tech. Sgt. Michelle Plastow, of the 440th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron. “This allowed us to share our culture with them in a way I have never seen before and they loved it.”