News: Band provides security for Leatherneck
Story by Cpl. Daniel Blatter
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – The 1st Marine Division Band is known for performing hundreds of ceremonies each year. In 2007, they were awarded the "Col. George S. Howard Citation of Musical Excellence for Military Concert Bands,” however, here in Afghanistan, many of them can be found providing security for the thousands of service members and contractors deployed to Helmand province’s Camp Leatherneck in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“Instead of just playing music all the time, we also do the Marine side of the house as well,” said Staff Sgt. Mark Reheard, a trumpet player for the band. “I have yet to meet a Marine bandsman who didn’t want to deploy. A lot of Marine musicians look forward to going to 1st Marine Division just to deploy.”
Whether working at the gate searching vehicles, or standing post manning a 50 caliber heavy machine gun, these 12 musicians, who deployed with 1st Marine Division (Forward), can be found pulling their weight.
“Right now some of us are assigned to the Base Defense Operations Center, maintaining the perimeter security of Camp Leatherneck,” said Cpl. Charity Grogan, a French horn player with the band, currently assigned to the BDOC’s main entry point. Here at the gates, we are looking for drugs such as hashish, opium, heroin, and harmful objects such as matches, lighters, knives and cell phones.”
The 1st Marine Division Band was organized during World War II in the early 1940's and bandsmen have drawn their rifles in support of several operations including Desert Shield, Desert Storm and most recently, Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Throughout the years, the band has served in many combat missions. Today, they continue to perform their riflemen duties.
The Marines of the 1st Marine Division (Forward) Band serve in a wide variety of billets, which often places them in the front line of defense for mission readiness.
“Just because we are in the band doesn’t mean that’s all we do,” said Cpl. Wesley Thurber, a trumpet player for the 1st Marine Division (Fwd) Band. “They send us everywhere.
“If they need a memorial service out here, we can do that. If they need security, we can do that, and if they need a driver, we can do that too,” added Thurber, who is currently augmented to the BDOC, as post security.
These bandsmen may be the “jack of all trades,” but they are quickly becoming masters of one, explained Thurber.
“We make sure everyone as far as vehicle and foot traffic that enters this area is safe and cleared,” Thurber said. “It is an essential job and we are proud to do it.”
Post security keeps Marines out on the front lines of the base, attentively scouring the perimeter, looking for any discrepancy that might signal danger.
Bandsmen can often be heard playing the Marines Hymn or "Waltzing Matilda," however, at a moment’s notice they will pick up their rifle and man their post.
“I like having the two different missions,” said Grogan, who for months has been working at the main entry point of Camp Leatherneck. “In the rear, I get to play the instrument I love and travel a lot. Out here, I am here to be security too. I can put down my instrument when needed and pick up my rifle and do what Marines do. After all, every Marine is a rifleman.”