AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar—Capt. Justin Lewis, officer in charge of the U.S. Air Forces Central Command Band “Systems Go,” became the first Air Force band officer to conduct an honor band ensemble during the Middle East South Asia Conference, an academic and athletic conference consisting of six schools in the Middle East and India, at the American School of Doha, Feb. 5.
“Our role as Air Force band members within the Central Command area of responsibility is to aid in cultivating and strengthening host nation relationships,” said Lewis. “Music gets to the core of breaking down international barriers; American music can be one of our most beneficial tools to fuel positive and familiar feelings of unity.”
While visiting the school, Lewis had 10 hours of rehearsal time to practice and interact with 89 students from over 27 countries and numerous cultural backgrounds.
“Not only did I have the great honor of conducting the honor band during MESAC, but Systems Go kicked off the conference with a high energy performance the first night,” said Lewis. “These performances may not solve the region’s problems, but we can affect change at the source by developing the mindsets of the younger generations.”
AFCENT Band members explained their priority in the CENTCOM area of responsibility is generating positive and relatable experiences with people in the region through their interactions and musical performances.
Master Sgt. Alyson Jones, a vocalist with the AFCENT Band, said the chance to play a show for such a diverse crowd is phenomenal given the multitude of different backgrounds among the attendees.
“It is so cool to watch music break down cultural barriers in this capacity,” said Jones. “It was like a high school dance at first, but by the second song we performed, most everyone was right in front of the stage dancing together.”
Performances like these give members of the band a chance to showcase the Air Force from a different perspective than usual.
"I always pictured people in the military as being mean, so when I met the AFCENT Band I learned that military members are just like the rest of us,” said a senior attending the conference from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
A junior attending the conference said he didn’t realize how many different jobs are in the Air Force and was thankful for the musicians who took time to help them improve their musical ability.
“I like how Captain Lewis didn't just talk about music, but about life,” said a sophomore attending the conference from New Delhi, India. “He taught us that it's the little decisions in our day that add up to determine what type of people we become.”
With the rest of their deployment ahead of them, the AFCENT Band plans to continue seeking out opportunities to strengthen and develop lasting relationships within the region.