‘Big Red One’ band shares talents at home, overseas
The 1st Inf. Div. band marches down Cavalry Parade Field for a pass and review June 5 during a change of command ceremony for the 2nd HBCT. Photo by: Amanda Kim Stairrett, 1ST INF. DIV.
Story by: Amanda Kim Stairrett
1ST INF. DIV. PUBLIC AFFAIRS
Demands for the 1st Infantry Division's musical talents span the seas, and the members of its band are answering that call in Kansas and Afghanistan.
When the "Big Red One" headquarters departed in March and April for its first deployment to Afghanistan, half of its band went, too.
This is the first time the band began a deployment with split operations down range and at home.
The band members were eight months into the division's 2010 to 2011 deployment in Iraq when the holiday season approached. Band officials realized no one was at Fort Riley to provide musical support to the post and surrounding communities, said 1st Sgt. Stephen Foxx, the band's senior noncommissioned officer.
Foxx, who has played the tuba and trombone for 36 years and has been an Army musician for more than 18 years, is the band's lead at Fort Riley.
The BRO band has an important role at Fort Riley – providing music to not only the post's official ceremonies and social events, but concerts and appearances off post.
"The communities really depend on us for their military-appearance support – the military presence," Foxx said.
More than 20 Soldiers returned from the last Iraq deployment just in time for the 2010 holiday season.
"And the community ate that up," Foxx said.
While the division's headquarters and one of its brigade combat teams deployed to Afghanistan, 80 percent of BRO Soldiers still remained at Fort Riley. Demand for the band remained the same, but it had half the staff.
"We are doing everything this year we did last year with a full band," he said.
A core group of 14 band members will spend the year in Afghanistan, while small groups deploy from Fort Riley for 90-day rotations, said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jeffry Larson, the band's commander.
"This allows us to have flexibility with the musical support we provide," Larson said in an email from Afghanistan.
The core group is comprised of two musical teams that represent the band's dual musical mission downrange: a brass quintet for official ceremonies and memorial services and a rock/country band for troop morale, Larson said. The rotating Soldiers augment these two or form separate groups, he added.
Like at home, the deployed ceremony band plays at transfer of authority ceremonies, memorial services, holiday observances and changes of command. It also provides music at ramp ceremonies as fallen service members' remains are loaded onto aircrafts for the journey back home.
The rock/country band travels throughout the division-led Regional Command-East to bring relief and comfort to troops at small forward operating bases, Larson said.
Soldiers, especially those on remote outposts, really grow to appreciate a band's visit, Foxx said, and senior leaders have recognized how important that is as a combat enabler.
No one else can provide the musical support the 1st Inf. Div. band does at military events, Larson said.
"Music and bands have always been an integral part of the U.S. Army from its very beginning," he said. "We represent the great tradition of the Army, and we are utilized in the vital role of enhancing unit cohesion and esprit de corps."
For Foxx, playing music and taking care of Soldiers is rewarding and the biggest part of what he does as an Army musician. It's all about "bringing that tap to their foot, that tear to the eye, that lump in the chest," he said.