News: Air Force Band performs for kids at American School of Doha
Story by Staff Sgt. Rachelle Elsea
UNDISCLOSED LOCATION - In a world where diversity can easily become the root of conflict, there are many cultures that view diversity as the source of their strength. One being, the melting pot, known as the Defense Department and another, the American School of Doha in Qatar. During a recent encounter, the two entities gathered for what can only be labeled as a celebration.
Nearly two dozen active-duty Air Forces Central Command airmen, known as the band Full Spectrum, brought down the house during the last day of school at ASD. Their audience comprised of students and faculty from more than 80 countries, clapped, danced and sang along to the universal language of upbeat artists such as Michael Jackson, Nicki Manaj, Bruno mars, and Karmin.
The band, whose eight out of 10 members are parents themselves, found the gig particularly gratifying.
"I have triplets that are 14 years old," said Senior Master Sgt. J.R. Erb, band noncommissioned officer in charge and bass player. "They just graduated from middle school and will be starting 9th grade next year. I was not able to be there for their graduation, so it was bittersweet to get to play for these kids."
The students were mutually enthusiastic.
"This is my first time seeing the band," said a female ASD 9th grader from Texas. "My favorite part was how much they were getting into it and how much fun they were having."
A recent ASD graduate from Palestine echoed her sentiment.
"I loved everything about it," he said. "I have seen AFCENT bands several times in the past and, I have to say, I have never seen a bad performance. When I walked in, I didn't realize it was live; I thought it was a recording. I think it is great they are going from place to place sharing their music and their talent."
"I like how close they are; on a smaller scale, they are just like us here at the school," he added.
The band members, from Joint Base Langley-Eustis , Va., although not from different countries, are brought together specifically for this three-month deployment. At their homestation, they are scattered throughout the band's seven ensembles.
They are given anywhere from a month to three months prior to leaving stateside to create their show and come together as a team.
"When you first start, it is like any other team, you have different personalities and the different challenges of how people play and interact with each other, but the longer you play and work with one another, things begin to smooth out," said Erb, a Pittsburg, Penn. native. "This team has been able to put stuff together much more quickly now that we know each other's strengths and weaknesses."
During their deployment, the band will travel throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, not only to play for U.S. and coalition troops, but also host nation communities whenever possible.
Similarly, the students of ASD also spend a lot of time traveling. For their field trips, sporting events and charity opportunities, they often travel to countries throughout the world. During the summer, many return to their home nations.
"I go home every summer," said the recent ASD graduate. "It's weird because I have friends from all over the world and I know people who have never left Palestine. I made the best decision coming here because I have been to five schools in my life and this school has made me feel the most at home."
He has been in Qatar for nine years and ASD for five. In the fall, he will be attending Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.
"Our kids tend to get into the schools they want to go to," said Middle School Principal Steve Leever, who moved to Doha with his wife and four kids from Lancaster, Penn. "There is a waiting list in every grade."
His wife, a math teacher, grew up overseas as well.
"My wife grew up in the jungles of South America where her dad was a civil service worker," said Leever. "It was a remote area in the Amazon region and our kids had always heard stories of exotic places she had to gone to as a kid. So, they were kind of primed to go overseas."
He said it wasn't a tough sell for his kids.
"They know more Arabic then I do and they really appreciate the culture here," said Leever. "But, we are such a tight community; it's not much different from being back home. When families leave, what I hear back from them is they really miss the school community, all the activities and all the things their kids were involved with."
Their sense of community parallels the U.S. military and is a quality which brings great pride.
"I think as an Air Force we come together as a family, from different races and religions, male, female, we all come together as a team," said Erb. "On a smaller scale, I think the bands do a great job of also coming together. It is very similar to the school, where people come from all different nations. We saw today how they were one team, one family, enjoying the show."
The U.S. Air Forces Central Command Band -- through the universal language of music -- supports the AFCENT commander's strategic communication, partnership building, and Air Force, Joint, and Coalition morale objectives in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. Based in Southwest Asia, the AFCENT Band is comprised of world-class Airman musicians from active duty, Reserve and Air National Guard bands.