News: Two soldiers share talents while deployed in Iraq
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — With the lights dimmed, two soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry Regiment, 77th Sustainment Brigade, 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command took the stage Sept. 27 to perform.
On a night filled with a dozen performers, Joint Base Balad, Iraq, saved the best for last.
The week before the show, Sgt. Ian Howes, a native of Winchester, Ky., and Spc. Jesse Mendoza, a native of Austin, Ky., won the base-wide JBB’s Got Talent competition and had been invited back for a second performance in the following week’s competition. Howes, a guitar-playing singer-songwriter, performed one of his original songs while Mendoza accompanied him on bass guitar.
With JBB rapidly drawing down prior to the withdrawal of U.S. forces at the end of 2011, the duo has made a point of sharing their talents with fellow Soldiers whenever possible to help boost morale.
“With the drawdown of Iraq, you don’t have things like the USO,” Howes said. “It takes guys like us to step out and make everybody feel good. To see smiles on people’s faces, that’s a good thing.”
Prior to their victories in the JBB’s Got Talent competition, Howes and Mendoza practiced their skills by performing at 149th Inf. Regt. functions, such as a Sept. 10 cookout where the duo performed for three hours.
Performing seems to have its benefits for both Howes and Mendoza.
“It’s a lot of good practice for me,” Mendoza said. “I like coming out and playing for everybody.”
Howes agreed, saying it feels good to perform in front of people and that he thrives off the crowd. He added that it’s all about helping his fellow soldiers through a tough deployment.
“You can always relate to a song,” he said. “It means everything to me…the fact that you can make somebody’s bad day turn into a great day.”