By Senior Airman Lindsey A. Porter, 11th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 09, 2013
Whether you're trudging through another grinding work commute, stationed abroad away from family, or in need of a little daily reprieve, listening to music can often invoke feelings of comfort and raise morale - no matter where you're located.
Recently, U.S. Air Forces Central Command tapped into this musical oasis with "Vector," an eight-person, deployed band stationed out of Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C. Currently, Vector holds the title of the Air Force's most-recent deployed musical unit, with history of the Air Force's deployed bands dating back to World War II and their involvement with the Glen Miller Band.
Originally, Air Force Bands are notified they've been tasked to fulfill the AFCENT Band requirement by the Pentagon, Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs. Then, that unit's band commander provides members of its band to body the next AFCENT Band. From there, members band together and become AFCENT and the Air Force's most-current deployed band.
Vector, the most-recent AFCENT ensemble, is currently traveling the Area of Responsibility and playing their part in the AFCENT Band mission by bringing a taste of home to each undisclosed location they visit.
"We perform songs that are on the playlists of many service members - top hits in genres from pop to funk," said 1st Lt. Dustin Doyle, AFCENT Band officer in charge. "AFCENT Bands like Vector engage audiences and offer them a time to get away from the stressors of any given day. Our upbeat and energetic performances bring a taste of home to the deployed warfighter."
Along with raising and maintaining the morale of America's deployed, Vector also fulfills AFCENT's multinational partnership mission. Using music as its medium, Vector performs as a means to silence many existing stereotypes about the United States and its uniformed military.
"By playing modern, popular music for local audiences, AFCENT Bands bring a better understanding of the U.S. Air Force and America to countries throughout Southwest Asia and the Middle East," said Lt. Col. Sean McKenna, AFCENT director of public affairs. "Through music, an AFCENT Band employs a tailored, high-energy performance to help strengthen relationships and build partnerships throughout each region they visit."
Furthermore, because of this two-fold mission, a majority of Vector's performances have taken place at numerous unconventional venues.
"AFCENT Bands have partnered with U.S. Embassies in many of the places they traveled, as well as performed concerts and workshops at local schools and children's hospitals," said Doyle.
This year alone, AFCENT Bands including Vector have performed at more than 270 musical engagements, with 105 located out in respective communities. Additionally, along with juggling this year's constant performance schedule, Vector is individually responsible for the movement of their more than 3,000 pounds of stage equipment between each location.
"Our pallet of gear contains our speakers and everyone's individual boxes," said Senior Master Sgt. Matt Ascione, Vector guitarist. "Every set has to be repeatedly built and torn down, sent through scanners at airports, and carried by each member."
To date, Vector alone has set stages in six countries and been lauded by a total audience of more than 10,000 people.
"AFCENT Bands are always received warmly and openly off base," said McKenna. "Many fans line up for photos and autographs after the concerts. It's heartening to see the impact these Airmen have on people in the region, some of whom speak little or no English."
Ascione agrees. By bringing music to these remote countries, Vector is not only fulfilling their AFCENT Band mission, but is also transcending countless cultural boundaries.
"It's amazing to see that, although many student audiences don't speak much English, they are no different than students in the states," said Ascione. "They laugh and sing the words to the songs they know. They giggle at some of the guys in the band. Some swoon over our lead female vocalist. It's a real treat to see all of that."
Despite warm receptions, some may be skeptical about the pertinent role Vector, AFCENT and their music play in the actual day-to-day fight.
"I was asked some time ago, 'What does a band bring to the fight?'" said Doyle. "Seeing it firsthand and being involved with the mission, it's rewarding to say that AFCENT Bands build partnerships, develop relationships on behalf of leadership and raise the morale of those we serve alongside. Being able to get audiences to laugh and smile together is a powerful act. AFCENT Bands accomplish all of this through music."