PRINCE SULTAN AIR BASE, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia --
Lost in the sights and sounds, I no longer felt the heat of the desert or the sand beneath my feet. My mind and senses were back home in the state of Ohio where the taste of the cold humid air fills my lungs. The patches of sand on the dance floor now look to me like patches of snow, fighting to cover the fallen leaves and thick grass of fall in a visual transition to winter, my favorite season.
If you were to ask any wayward stranger from across the world to describe their culture, I would bet music would be mentioned within the first 10 minutes of your conversation. Music is deeply rooted in our memories of home, a fact made crystal clear to me as I watch and listen to the AFCENT band play 6,849 miles away from my home.
Even in the new era of technology where wifi is prevalent across most of Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, where American Airmen and Soldiers work, sleep and play, the band’s three day live music tour, May 9-11, just hits me differently. The front of the stage is a place of gathering where a community of homesick comrade-in-arms sing, dance and tap along with the beat of the band.
There isn’t a generation, regional demographic or subculture affiliation that is left out of the rhythm as the musicians setlist spans every musical genre from jazz, to pop, country, disco and rock. The latter of which, rock’n’roll, I grew up listening to with my dad every day, riding in the car or watching him restore a classic in the garage. Thanks to him, it put my musical tastes a little behind my generation.
The band said multiple times throughout the set that their mission is to bring a slice of home to the service members serving overseas. From where I stand watching the whole scene in the shadow of the crowd, I one hundred percent believe they are accomplishing that mission for me and many others.
It is evident in the sheer number of chairs, and a couch, lugged outside and placed in front of the stage. That’s not including the many introverts, like myself, tapping their feet and clapping their hands standing in the back, or PSAB’s more confident extroverts busting moves on the dance floor for the entertainment of themselves, the crowd and band.
To the members of the AFCENT Band: Master Sgt. Sam Kennedy, Tech. Sgt. Ryan Manzi, Staff Sgt. select Mike Roe, Airman 1st Class Ashley Arrington, Airman 1st Class Keegan Bushouer and the audio guy Airman 1st Class Colten Mortensen; I thank you from the bottom of my heart for bringing this reservist home, when I'm so far away telling the Air Force’s story. I may not have been a dancer on your floor or a karaoke singer on your stage, but I am a writer and this story is for you. Mission accomplished.