JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq - Shortly after arriving at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, a 3rd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, UH-60 Black Hawk pilot received a mission to fly members of the United Service Organization tour throughout Iraq.

The usual mission provided an unusual experience and jump start to the pilot's Operation Iraqi Freedom deployment.

While talking to a few of the tour members, the conversation turned to the fact that Chief Warrant Officer 2 Fredrick Torres, C Co., 3-158th pilot stationed in Katterbach, Germany, was an experienced violin player.

"I showed up to the USO tour and they introduced me," said Torres, of Bronx, N.Y. "I got up there and didn't know what to expect."

Torres said he enjoyed the rare chance to play with the members of the tour in front of his fellow friends, Soldiers and leadership.

"I was pretty nervous, and then it was pretty freaking awesome," said Torres. "I had a great time that night."

The unit's executive officer, Maj. Bart Johnke, said Torres' performance at the USO show was a morale booster for both Torres and the rest of the unit.

"He legitimately sounded good and matched in with the band," said Johnke, of Centerville, S.D. "It was good to see, and he was a good representative for the unit."

Although Torres was spotlighted during the USO tour, he said he didn't play for recognition during his deployment; he played violin for the love of music.

"Music takes away from those days that don't go your way," said Torres. "It breaks up some of the monotony."

When not deployed, Torres, who has been playing violin for 21 years, wrote music for artists and clubs in the U.S. During his time in Iraq, he placed his second job on hold, and refocused his musical talents and free time toward teaching and playing with friends.

"It's a different setting," said Torres. "It's not all business all of the time. To be doing both things of what I love at the same time, music and flying, I can't ask for anything else."

The 3-158th chaplain, Capt. Bill Breckenridge, said between Torres' busy piloting schedule here, he was able to play violin at practice with the chapel's band, and because of his training in different styles of music, was able to mesh with the band's style.

"He's very talented, very good, very humble and very pleasant to work with," said Breckenridge, of Kingston, Texas. "I would love for him to play in the church band if his schedule permits it."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16