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AFCENT Band, building relationships with a universal language

The U.S. Air Forces Central Command Band collaborates with local musician near Salalah, Oman Aug. 12, 2018. The U.S. Embassy in Oman organized the cultural exchange. The AFCENT Band has a mission to develop relationships across the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility on behalf of the United States and the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Dustin Doyle)

The U.S. Air Forces Central Command Band collaborates with local musician near Salalah, Oman Aug. 12, 2018. The U.S. Embassy in Oman organized the cultural exchange. The AFCENT Band has a mission to develop relationships across the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility on behalf of the United States and the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Dustin Doyle)

Members of the U.S. Air Forces Central Command Band stack their music equipment on a pallet at Kabul, Afghanistan Sept. 17, 2018. The band has to build to the strict requirements of Logistics, Readiness and Services standards, preparing their gear for transit on Air Force aircraft. In addition to performing, band members are responsible to load and transport their equipment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Dustin Doyle)

Members of the U.S. Air Forces Central Command Band stack their music equipment on a pallet at Kabul, Afghanistan Sept. 17, 2018. The band has to build to the strict requirements of Logistics, Readiness and Services standards, preparing their gear for transit on Air Force aircraft. In addition to performing, band members are responsible to load and transport their equipment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Dustin Doyle)

Students at a school in Duhkan, Qatar dance and enjoy a performance by the U.S. Air Forces Central Command Band Oct. 9, 2018. The AFCENT Band has an outreach mission to engage communities in efforts to develop relationships on behalf of AFCENT and the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Dustin Doyle)

Students at a school in Duhkan, Qatar dance and enjoy a performance by the U.S. Air Forces Central Command Band Oct. 9, 2018. The AFCENT Band has an outreach mission to engage communities in efforts to develop relationships on behalf of AFCENT and the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Dustin Doyle)

Members of the U.S. Air Forces Central Command Band perform live on Arabian Radio Network's #1 Hit Music Station in Dubai, United Arab Emirates Oct. 21, 2018. The AFCENT Band was participating in Discover America Week, an outreach initiative organized by the U.S. Embassy in UAE where American culture is shared and celebrated with the population in the region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Dustin Doyle)

Members of the U.S. Air Forces Central Command Band perform live on Arabian Radio Network's #1 Hit Music Station in Dubai, United Arab Emirates Oct. 21, 2018. The AFCENT Band was participating in Discover America Week, an outreach initiative organized by the U.S. Embassy in UAE where American culture is shared and celebrated with the population in the region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Dustin Doyle)

U.S. and Coalition members dance to music played by the U.S. Air Forces Central Command Band at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia Aug. 19, 2018. The AFCENT Band has a mission to travel the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility to support and entertain deployed service members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Dustin Doyle)

U.S. and Coalition members dance to music played by the U.S. Air Forces Central Command Band at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia Aug. 19, 2018. The AFCENT Band has a mission to travel the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility to support and entertain deployed service members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Dustin Doyle)

The U.S. Air Forces Central Command Band performs on stage during the Discover America Festival at the Mall of Qatar at Al Rayyan, Qatar Nov. 3, 2018. The USAFCENT Band covers 17 of the 20 countries in the area of responsibility and performs 45 times during their three month tour. The band assists the AFCENT commander by creating positive ways for two cultures to engage and develop relationships on behalf of the U.S. Air Force and the United States of America (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Travis Beihl)

The U.S. Air Forces Central Command Band performs on stage during the Discover America Festival at the Mall of Qatar at Al Rayyan, Qatar Nov. 3, 2018. The USAFCENT Band covers 17 of the 20 countries in the area of responsibility and performs 45 times during their three month tour. The band assists the AFCENT commander by creating positive ways for two cultures to engage and develop relationships on behalf of the U.S. Air Force and the United States of America (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Travis Beihl)

The U.S. Air Forces Central Command Band performs on stage during the Discover America Festival at the Mall of Qatar at Al Rayyan, Qatar Nov. 3, 2018. The USAFCENT Band covers 17 of the 20 countries in the area of responsibility and performs 45 times during their three month tour. The band enhances U.S. Central Command’s theater security cooperation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Travis Beihl)

The U.S. Air Forces Central Command Band performs on stage during the Discover America Festival at the Mall of Qatar at Al Rayyan, Qatar Nov. 3, 2018. The USAFCENT Band covers 17 of the 20 countries in the area of responsibility and performs 45 times during their three month tour. The band enhances U.S. Central Command’s theater security cooperation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Travis Beihl)

AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar --

Six Airmen are gathered in a room; darkness encompassing the walls, cords snake on the ground reaching tall, thin silver cylindrical stands. One paces back and forth, another hastily taps their heel on the ground. Suddenly the floor starts to elevate. As the floor reaches higher, the pacing stops, one Airman grasps a stick and raises it into the air. Another whips the cord away from the stand it once rested on. Hearts start to flutter as adrenaline rushes through their bodies. As their heads reach the top, smoke begins to fill the room, a loud bang from a drum is heard and the rest follow suit with their tools of the trade, greeted by the roar of the audience waiting for them.

 

This was the final day’s performance for the U.S. Air Forces Central Command Band during the Discover America Tour. The AFCENT Band performed for more than 500 Qataris’ that day at the Mall of Qatar, one of the host nation’s largest shopping centers.

 

The AFCENT Band is the only deployed band in the United States Air Force, covering 17 of the 20 countries in the area of responsibility. Some places are so remote that the locals have never experienced live music.

 

Capt. Dustin Doyle, AFCENT Band officer in charge, is the orchestrator for this one-of-a-kind band. His duty: promote and educate the band’s mission and coordinate with local officials and embassies to find venues for the band to perform.

 

“Our mission is to assist the AFCENT commander create positive ways for our two cultures to engage and develop relationships on behalf of the U.S. Air Force and the United States of America,” said Doyle. “We can become the tip of the spear, using soft power, to engage with music. This allows us to enhance U.S. Central Command’s theater security cooperation efforts and ultimately provides the band with more future engagements.”

 

With performances ranging from playing for dignitaries to children and community elders, these expert musicians take each performance seriously. The number of gigs the AFCENT Band plays within their 3-month tour rivals what the state side Air Force bands would play in a whole year.

 

“On average, the AFCENT Band performs 45 times during their 3-month tour; roughly a concert every-other-day,” said Doyle. “This mission has a very high operations tempo compared to bands in the states. We seldom practice because, just like every other job in the Air Force, once your boots hit the ground we are tasking you to perform.”

The multitude of performances couldn’t happen without the thousands of pounds of music equipment which needs to be packed specifically for each concert. However, unlike back home, these Airmen Musicians move virtually everything themselves.

 

“We have over 5,000 lbs of equipment we have to lug to each performance,” said, Master Sgt. Christopher Stahl, AFCENT band superintendent. “We load them onto custom built pallets, built to specifications noted by the airframe’s loadmasters, for every trip we take. Once we land, we: unload, set up, break down and pack up everything for the next gig. Compared to the states, it’s the same process except with less people, rehearsal and prep time and rest between performances.”

 

The U.S. Air Force has used music for decades as an effective diplomatic tool. Music, in and of itself, has an innate quality to exist without language barriers and bring people together despite vast differences.

 

“Back in 2013, we had several gigs in an area in Kyrgyzstan where a large portion of the population was illiterate,” said Doyle. “We worked with the U.S. Embassy to engage with several small villages and inform them about their culture and heritage and share U.S. culture and heritage through music and picture handouts. Even with the language barrier, we used music as a unique way to bridge cultures and develop relationships in an otherwise tough environment.”

 

“I’m proud of what we do and I’m humbled to work with musicians and Airmen of such quality on so many levels,” said Doyle. “We go to places with people who have never seen or interacted with Americans and we leave lasting impressions of that they think about the U.S. Air Force. Not only that, we also represent the professionalism of our Airmen. It’s humbling to be entrusted with such a high honor.”