By Michael Norris, Pentagram Assistant Editor
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - The U.S. Army Band, "Pershing's Own," received the 2012 Commander-in-Chief Award from the George Washington chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army July 17 at an Army Navy Country Club luncheon.
The award, which was first given in 1979, goes out to exemplary individuals and organizations that represent the Army. According to AUSA criteria, the recipient must be a current or former member of the armed forces, a past or present elected or appointed government official, or a leader in academic, business or community affairs.
Past recipients of the award include: Congressmen G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery and John Murtha; U.S. Senators John Warner, Sam Nunn and Robert Dole and Daniel Inouye; Generals William C. Westmorland, Maxwell R. Thurman, John M. Shalikashvili and Colin Powell; and just last year, Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell.
The governor won in part for making Virginia one of the most veteran-friendly states in the nation, said AUSA George Washington Chapter President Todd Hunter.
This year is only the second time the award has been bestowed on an organization. Another Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall-based unit, The 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), took home the award in 2006.
"We note with great admiration the long, distinguished history and tradition of excellence maintained by the band since 1922," noted a letter sent TUSAB leaders first notifying them of the award. "Pershing's Own plays a very important role nationally and internationally, from battlefields to our nation's capital, and last fall, the historic trip to China to collaborate with the Military Band of the People's Liberation Army of China."
Karen Lowe, chair of the nominating committee for the George Washington chapter, said AUSA selected the Army Band from eight nominations put forward for 2012.
"We looked at everything the Army Band has done," said Hunter, a former Old Guard Soldier. Because the band serves as ambassadors for the Army, he said it was only a matter of time before the organization received its due.
"They finally got the recognition they deserve," Hunter added.
Attending Wednesday's ceremony was MDW Commander Maj. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, Army Band Leader and Commander Col. Thomas H. Palmatier, and TUSAB Command Sgt. Maj. Mitchell Spray, along with representative musicians from various Army Band ensembles.
In remarks accepting the award, Palmatier thanked the AUSA chapter for the Soldier morale programs it helps fund; the Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army Sherwood "Woody" Goldberg, who was instrumental in finessing the band's trip to China; and also the working Soldiers in the U.S. Army Band.
"I think the Army and the American people value what the Soldiers of Pershing's Own do each and every day," Palmatier said after the ceremony. "There were seven funerals today. The day-to-day business is valued, but I think it's just assumed. And that's fine, that's our job. But the trip to China was an example of where we got to be used as an instrument of public diplomacy at the national level, where we truly got to be a strategic tool. That clearly made this year different than other years in terms of what we were able to donate to the nation."
"It's a great honor. It's very flattering and humbling to honor us this way," said Spray. "One of the things I really appreciate is that we were able to bring some of our folks over [to the ceremony]. It wasn't just the colonel and myself, we were given the opportunity to bring some of our Soldiers in and have their role acknowledged."
"Too often me and the command sergeant major are the only ones who hear praise for the things that [Army Band] Soldiers do," said Palmatier. "We tried to [bring in] a cross section from all the different groups and different ranks, so it wasn't just all the sergeant majors or something like that. Usually the Soldiers out there doing funerals don't know how appreciated they are. I'm really grateful to the chapter for inviting a group of Soldiers to be part of the award."
Members of the U.S. Army Chorus performed a medley of Soldier songs as part of the luncheon, including: "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," "Over There" and "The Ballad of the Green Berets."