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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Congresswomen Wants To Get Rid Of The Air Force Bands

A few years ago I was in Louisville to give a presentation and happened to catch the US Army Field Band in concert. Excellent from top to bottom, the band served up a wide range of music that was as top-notch as it comes, as is the case with all military bands. It was a totally enjoyable experience.

Last week, Republican congresswoman from Arizona Martha McSally attacked the Air Force's bands before House Armed Services Committee, according to the Washington Post. In her words, "We have hundreds of people playing the tuba and clarinet. If we really had a manning crisis, from my perspective, we would really tell people to put down the tuba and pick up a wrench or gun."

She went on to describe the bands as a waste of taxpayer money, but she's not the first to take that stance. It's been going on since almost from when military bands were first created.

The fact is that the military bands are one of the largest employers of musicians in the country, and most of those employed are elite in that they've previously trained at conservatories and colleges and must pass a rigorous audition to be accepted.

And the bands work a lot, with the Air Force bands alone logging more than 1600 performances per year ranging from official military functions to concerts to community outreach programs.

As Colonel Larry H. Lang, the commander and conductor of the United States Air Force Band points out, "Unless you reduce the strength of the army by that amount, you haven't saved any money; you just turn them into something else, and end up contracting what they did," he said. "And you find out they did a lot."

This is just another attack on the arts, and hopefully one that won't gain traction. The way the military misspends money, especially the Air Force, the band should be the least of their worries.


Rand said...

Ridiculous assumption that proves once again how ignorant and hypocritical some(?) politicians actually are. SMH

How can investing in something so positive and beneficial to society and culture such as Music, or the Arts in general ever be a waste of money?

Obviously this congresswoman either has her own hidden agenda or simply ate a full bowl of stupid that morning.

Alan Freitag said...

The congresswoman disregards the value of pride as a force multiplier and the role of ceremony in fostering that pride. Perhaps she and her colleagues should also move out of that costly Capital Building and into more affordable mobile units as is often done in schools.

Anonymous said...

These bands provide final "honors" for our nation's deceased service members at Arlington National Cemetery, conduct ceremonies for formal State-to-State visits, provide music that sets the stage for high-level formal dinners and plays key roles in national events such as State Funerals and Inauguration.

They foster patriotism among the American public, connect communities that don't have a larger military base better understand and connect with our service members, and enhance host-nation relationships at our overseas bases.

They boost morale of our troops by performing concerts in austere locations where our military deploys and at countless ceremonies in garrison.

In short, our bands have a mission just like the mighty A-10s Representative McSally used to fly. While they generate "soft" power in contrast to more traditional military units; they are formidable instruments of national power none the less.

I'm certain that if Representative McSally paid a visit to one of these bands and saw what they do and how they do it, she would change her tune (pun intended)!

SGM (ret) Scott Bauer said...

I appreciate Mr. Owsinski’s comments about the US Army Field Band since I retired from there as the Technical Support Sergeant Major and senior audio engineer. It is an all inspiring group comprised of some of the best, and most dedicated musicians and staff that the country has to offer. From a county fair pig barn in Georgia, to the Kennedy Center, to the Hollywood Bowl, the shows were always presented in a professional manner and left the audience moved and more patriotic than when they entered. Personally, accompanying President Reagan to commemorate the 40th anniversary of D-Day on Normandy Beach was the most memorable.

I just had a great line flash across my screen which seemed highly appropriate, “Reality Over Rhetoric”. I don’t know what McSally’s agenda is, but I seriously doubt that it was initiated at the request of any of her Arizona constituents. Of which, a large portion are probably retired military.

Manning is certainly an issue that has resulted from congressional support for Obama’s force reduction policies. The scale of which out sizes all military musical units combined. Military musical units have take their share of downsizing, to include units deactivated. To make a comment like she did is shallow and displays a complete lack of understanding, along with the waste of time that she was granted on the floor. We have the highest number of conflicts and postings around the globe that we have ever had and the smallest military to contend with them. That makes a whole lot of sense.

She is obviously unaware of the serious mission of these musical units above the entertainment aspect. These units steeped in tradition and present our 250+ year military history and customs to the country and the world. Touching millions of people each year, they keep the support of the American people behind our military and create more favorable attitudes toward the U.S. in foreign populations than the Secretary of State, at least the last couple anyways.

They are a powerful patriotic tool, as well as an international tool for diplomacy. Missiles have their place and military musicians represent the flip side of that coin. In contrast to missiles, bands are reusable.
McSally must also be unaware that military bands have secondary combat missions; such as drivers, fireman, POW guards and medics. It is not uncommon to see an Army guitar player in theater with his instrument slung over one shoulder and a M-16 slung over the other shoulder.

We need serious solutions, not misleading political rhetoric to get all of our military back up to strength.

Anonymous said...

I am so surprised that Rep M McSally as a Colonel in the Air Force even would turn against her own service orientation and mention this disbanding of the Air Force Band Program. She evidently does not realize how important military bands are to the morale of the troops and civilians alike. Also the dual role military band members perform in their services here and abroad.

While serving in Korea there were many nights when our 2nd Div Band had to muster and take up our arms to fortify the perimeter around the Division Headquarters against an imminent invasion from the North Koreans. And after the threat was over we would return in the morning to our home base, turn in our arms and pick up our instruments to play for ceremonies or school concerts to “keep the morale high.”

Col M McSally should reconsider her comments and attend a Concert or two to realize the important of maintaining such an important morale boosting function for our military. Rhetoric is valueless when trying to impress others if not substantiated. I am positive Rep M McSally can find if she looks hard enough to prune into where our tax payer monies go to rather than citing the Air Force military band program.

Ret Army Bandmaster CW4 Josef Orosz

Scott Steiner said...

I've worked with military jazz bands from all branches of the military for more than 20 years at the biggest music educator conferences in the United States - including with the USAF Airmen of Note. I've seen many performances, often side by side with top civilian pro jazz bands and the world's top college jazz bands. There is the highest level of musical integrity and tradition in these ensembles proudly carried forward year after year, performance after performance. Audiences leave entertained and inspired - almost always with a standing ovation.

I know the concert bands, chamber groups, pop ensembles, etc. have the same level of professionalism and integrity.

The people of the United States should work hard not let such a vital portion of the military fade away. The significance of musical overlap of us "regular citizens" and those serving in our armed forces is incredibly rich and important and impossible to assign a monetary value to.


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