Students from Gymnasium #62 in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, enjoy the sounds of the Air Forces Central Band Wild Blue Country during their special invitation visit from the Transit Center at Manas. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Daniel Nathaniel III)
Senior Master Sgt. Jerome Oddo signs autographs for students from Gymnasium #62 in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, after the Air Forces Central Band Wild Blue Country's performance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karl Bradley)
Leadership from the 376th Air Expedtionary Wing and Wild Blue Country visit with Gymnasium #62 faculty and staff in the school conference room after their performance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karl Bradley)
Air Forces Central Band Wild Blue Country finishes their tour of Gymnasium #62 in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, with a special moment with the school's principal. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karl Bradley)
by Tech. Sgt. Stephen Brannen and Master Sgt. Karl Bradley
AFCENT Band NCOIC & Operations/Logistics Representative
4/12/2011 - BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- After a long 36-hour trip and three cramped C-17 rides, the Air Forces Central band, Wild Blue Country, arrived at the Transit Center at Manas April 3, ready to take the sound of American country music to the people of Kyrgyzstan. This outreach into the local community is an invaluable part of the Public Affairs directive here, and the band is the tip of the spear.
"One of the most important missions of the AFCENT Band is to bring joy and goodwill to international partnering communities," said Senior Master Sgt. Jerome Oddo, AFCENT Band superintendent, "and the international language of music can do that like no other public relations tool can."
Their first stop was Gymnasium #62, one of 82 public schools in Bishkek. The audience included students from all grade levels, as well as faculty and staff. The one hour show demonstrated the professionalism of all the armed forces in the U.S. to a young and exuberant crowd April 3.
"Even though we couldn't always understand the words," beamed a faculty member, "the emotion in your music conveyed so much to us about what you were saying. It truly helps build our partnership (with the U.S.)"
The band members were mobbed by students asking for autographs and CD's. Some of the children even got a chance to try their hand at some of the band's instruments. One young man played guitar and sang one of his own original songs for Tech. Sgt. Stephen Brannen, NCOIC and guitarist for Wild Blue Country.
After the show the principal invited all the members to the school conference room for tea and hors d'ouevres to show their appreciation. The school's principal smiled sincerely and spoke from the heart, "Thank you so much for your music. We truly appreciate what you bring to our school and community!"
Other faculty members at the get-together were equally appreciative. "Your music was one hour of pleasure for us," said one of the school's English teachers. The Director of History Curriculum said, "Your music and your being here really brings our countries closer together."
After many warm handshakes and displays of appreciation, the band drove away knowing they had helped cement an international relationship, in a way only music can, that will grow stronger with each new generation.