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    440th Army Band plays 4th of July Celebration at the home of U.S. Ambassador to Botswana

    440th Army Band plays 4th of July Celebration at the home of U.S. Ambassador to Botswana

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Mary Junell | The North Carolina National Guard’s 440th Army Band’s Saxophone Quartet, stands on...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Mary Junell 

    North Carolina National Guard

    Soldiers with the North Carolina National Guard’s 440th Army band are used to performing at patriotic events, but for the Saxophone Quartet the event they played on July 10, 2019 was unlike anything they had done in the past.

    Days before the event, a sports themed 4th of July celebration, they were requested to play Take Me Out to the Ball Game, a song that represents one of America’s greatest pastimes, baseball.

    Although they had never been asked to play that song in the past, that was not what made the celebration unique, it was the location. The saxophone quartet performed this song, and the National anthem, for a crowd of over 200 people, not in the U.S., but on a completely different continent, in Gaborone, Botswana.

    The performance was part of an annual Independence Day celebration held at embassies all over the world, and this one was at the home of Craig L. Cloud, the U.S. Ambassador to Botswana, who is a native of Cullowhee, N.C.

    The celebration and the theme were meant to foster and celebrate the relationships between the people of Botswana and the U.S., including Botswana government officials, local business, and educational institutions who were invited to the event.

    “We’re celebrating sports in the United States,” said Benjamin Swanson, the Financial Management Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Botswana. “We have a bunch of different activities here showcasing unique American sports.”

    The band’s performance was seen as some as one of the highlights of the party.

    “What’s more American than having the U.S. Army playing the Star Spangled Banner at out embassy’s 4th of July celebration,” Swanson said. “It’s really great to have these guys here and showcase the best of America.”

    The 440th Army Band members were not the only North Carolina National Guardsmen in Botswana and the performance was not the reason they traveled to the African county; more than 170 Army and Air National Guardsmen from N.C., Alabama and New Jersey took the more than 15 hour flight to Botswana to participate in Upward Minuteman 2019, a U.S. Africa Command exercise promoting the U.S. National Guard’s State Partnership Programs on the African Continent.

    Although the flight was long, it gave Staff Sgt. Kendell Hill, one of the band members traveling to Botswana, time to arrange Take Me Out to the Ball Game, so the quartet could play the song together for the first time.

    “We did not have the song arranged for the Sax Quartet,” said Sgt. 1st Class Mark Medlin, the Baritone Saxophone player for the group, who hand wrote the the sheet music for the performance. “It was more like a score and we needed individual parts, so we had to write the parts out. Long plane flights made for plenty of time to get it done.”

    Although Army bands are known for playing music, one of the tasks they train for on their Mission Essential Task List is to help relationships with foreign countries, and they were excited for the opportunity to use their training.

    “It felt great to actually do one of the tasks we have been training for,” Medlin said. “It was really awesome to play this gig. Even with extra challenges, it was worth it.”

    The 440th Army band brought 21 Soldiers to Botswana as part of Upward Minuteman and will perform three more concerts and train with the Botswana Defense Force before they travel home to N.C.



    Date Taken: 07.11.2019
    Date Posted: 07.12.2019 18:05
    Story ID: 331203
    Location: GABORONE, BW 

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