AL DHAFRA AIR BASE, United Arab Emirates --
As music begins to play, the crowd of deployed members at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, grows larger and larger to watch the Air Forces Central Command band perform. These dynamic musicians perform and tour in small ensembles throughout the Area of Responsibility, positively improving troop’s morale, diplomacy and providing outreach to host nation communities.
Stationed in Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, the band travels to countries all over the region for strategic and diplomatic outreach.
“As a deployed band, we really have two facets to our mission,” said 1st Lt. Christina Muncey, officer in charge of the AFCENT Band. “The first is troop’s morale where we go out to all of the deployed or forward bases to play for anyone who is stationed there. (Second) We’re helping to build and strengthen alliances that are vital to our strengths in the middle east. The band provides an opportunity to put our diplomats next to diplomats of various countries to get into the communities, and to engage those communities. We put a human face on the American military and help people to really understand what it is that we are doing here and why we continue to have a presence in the region.”
They perform for ambassadors, embassy functions, community concerts, school assemblies, military functions and ceremonies, and other social events – entertaining diverse audiences and representing the excellence found in the United States Air Force.
“A major element that we tend to bring as Air Force musicians to the Air Force as a whole, is a different form of power,” said Tech. Sgt. Jose Fausto, AFCENT band member. “(In the Air Force) We have tactical power, Air Power and through other forces we have ground power as well, but we feel that in music we provide a soft power. We tend to go into those places and as a form of communication, we break the ice with the communities through music.”
The AFCENT band is a rock and pop showcase group whose music stretches from top 40, pop, dance and country hits of today, to popular rock-n-roll classics. The Air Force has a continuous musical presence across the Middle East.
“Bands are important not only stateside, but also in a deployed location because we not only bring a taste of home to the deployed troops, but we provide an opportunity for senior leaders to get their message where they need it to be,” said Muncey. “We provide the Combined Forces Air Component commander an opportunity to get his message out whether it’ s about deterrence and stability or building partnered air forces. We do it in a way that is non-threatening and allows diplomats, citizens of host nations and our military senior leaders to get together and have conversations with that backdrop of music in a very easy setting.”
The AFCENT Band rotates several ensembles through the AOR that perform a wide variety of musical styles to appeal to audiences of all ages and backgrounds. Recently the AFCENT band performed in Dubai during the Special Olympics.
“A couple of nights ago, we’ve had an opportunity to perform at a national day at Abu Dhabi,” said Muncey. “In addition to local and embassy dignitaries, we also had special guests from the American Special Olympians Teams as well as the Emirates Special Olympians Teams. During Uptown Funk, there was an Emirate athlete who was just dancing his heart out and that was absolutely incredible. Two nights ago, we were doing an USO performance in Dubai and the team was singing Sweet Caroline. Everyone was singing along and having a good time. My favorite part is the audience interacting with the band.”
“We provide musical support, not just to the bases in the AFCENT area but we like to go into those communities where those bases are,” added Fausto. “For example, here at ADAB we had the opportunity to go off base as well to do both missions for the U.S. embassy and to go up to Dubai to do missions with the consultant. We were fortunate to participate in some events with the Special Olympics as well, which was truly an honor to see the inspiration in their eyes. It was an awesome experience to do so.”
The AFCENT Band is comprised of deployed Airmen from active duty, Reserve and Air National Guard bands. Members of the Band are world-class musicians trained from the finest U.S. and International music schools and conservatories, who have chosen to use their talents to serve in the Air Force as full-time musicians.
As a National Guardsman and middle school music teacher, Fausto understands how music communicates at every level.
“I teach middle school music in Los Angeles so music is definitely part of my life,” added Fausto. “All of us in the National Guards have dual roles, we serve our countries but we also serve our communities as well. We tend to use a lot of technology in the school that I teach at. All of our students have I-Pads issued to them and I was able to skype with them. We actually put together a small little rock concert at the beginning of this deployment and we telecasted the concert to all of the students. We’re showing the people at home what we do out here while we are deployed.”
AFCENT values developing strong relationships with the regional community and this band furthers this effort as it performs for diverse groups of international audiences.
“That’s where we can use our music as a means to communicate diplomatically to get in touch with the local communities and break the ice to show them the positive side that the U.S. military can offer,” added Fausto. “We open that avenue of communication through music. We go into those locations where they’ve never seen or interacted with Americans before, that’s another element we use the Air Force’s music program for.”