News: Air Force Central Command band wraps-up Baghdad tour
Story by Master Sgt. Brian Davidson
By Master Sgt. Brian Davidson
447th Air Expeditionary Group
BAGHDAD, Iraq - The Air Force Central Command Band "Sonora" concluded their two-week Victory Base Complex tour in Baghdad with a standing ovation from Iraqi army special forces soldiers Dec. 18.
During the tour, the 10-person band performed a mix of top 40, rhythm and blues and classic rock music for a range of audiences including senior military leaders, coalition forces and U.S. Soldiers and Airmen.
The highlight of the tour was decidedly the concerts for Iraqi military members and their families, marking the first time a U.S. Air Force band performed on the Iraqi military bases.
"Our deployed Air Force bands travel as far north as Kyrgyzstan and as far south as Oman and all points in between," said Maj. Matthew Henry, AFCENT Expeditionary Band commander. "They perform for both military and civilian audiences, and have been very well received."
Major Henry explained that the band's outreach mission is to provide music that reaches the hearts and minds of non-traditional audiences like members of the Iraqi military and their families.
Sonora offers a diverse performance repertoire featuring acoustic, electric and bass guitars, keyboards, drums, saxophone, trumpet and slide trombone. Vocalists round-out the mix, and an expert sound engineer brings it all together.
The band is deployed from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, where they support local community events, Air Force recruiting, troop morale and espirit de corps.
"While deployed, the band's focus turns to bringing a taste of America to the troops, and to our host nation," said Master Sgt. John Teamer, band non-commissioned officer in charge and lead singer. "The music of all of our Air Force bands reaches across language barriers, cultural and even political differences."
The first of the Iraqi performances was in the dining facility at New al Muthana Air Base, on the west side of Baghdad International Airport. As the band was setting up their equipment, Iraqi air force officers and enlisted watched, not quite sure why the Americans were there, but when they played the first bars of the Doobie Brothers classic rock tune "Long Train Running," the audience broke out in cheers and applause. Within minutes, the Iraqi airmen were on their feet dancing, and most continued for the remainder of the gig.
The next performance was for the children of Iraqi military and government officials living in a secure compound near the Victory Base Complex. The outdoor concert was also met with enthusiasm by the children in ages from toddler to adolescent.
The final performance at the Iraqi army base nearby was for special forces soldiers, and was attended by their commanding general.
"As soon as the performance began, the audience was again on their feet dancing and clapping," Sergeant Teamer said. "Soldiers who just a few years ago might have considered us their enemy, welcomed us with open arms."
Unfortunately, the performance was cut short when military duties called, requiring the soldiers to leave unexpectedly on a mission in Baghdad.
At the conclusion of the show, the Iraqi general invited the band to join him, along with other officers, at a nearby outdoor restaurant for a meal of traditional Iraqi food—an invitation the band was more than happy to accept.
"We were able to share music and fellowship with our new Iraqi friends and their invitation to share a meal, talk and laugh together serves as a testament to the progress that's been made in building a free and safer country," Sergeant Teamer said.