REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- The Army Materiel Command Band has "moved up" within the military community.

And, for band members, that's saying a lot.

Throughout the Army, its bands have been known for refining performances of patriotic music in some of the military's most rundown facilities. Band members are used to making the best of the acoustical challenges of practicing in old gyms, chow halls, chapels, recreation centers and condemned World War II buildings.

That's not the case at Redstone Arsenal.

On Jan. 24, the Army Materiel Command, Garrison and community officials joined together to cut the ribbon on the new $4.4 million, 16,082-square-foot AMC band facility (building 3713) on Patton Road near Gate 10.

"This new facility has created so much interest," band commander Chief Warrant Officer 4 Peter Gillies said.

"In my career, I've been assigned to nine different Army bands that have been housed in old hospitals, chow halls, theaters, NCO clubs, buildings that are old and have nothing about them that said band. This is my first opportunity to work in a facility designed for a band."

That feeling of appreciation was echoed by the 24 Soldiers now assigned to the AMC Band at Redstone. Sgt. Wayne Coots and Staff Sgt. Scott Dziadon, both who play the trombone, described practicing with bands in converted swimming pools and Quonset huts in Iraq. Back in the U.S., they shared experiences practicing in an old chemical testing facility and condemned WWII buildings.

"Having something like this kind of affirms your worth," Dziadon said.

"This is by far the best facility I've ever seen," said Spc. Jordan Roberts, a tuba player with five years of service. "It's motivating to come to work in a place that's built for us. This facility is a good step forward and I think it shows the direction of Army bands."

There are three other modern band facilities in the Army - in Korea, Japan and Fort Carson, Colo. -- and a few more are being planned, said Command Sgt. Major of the Army bands Joe Camarda. Eventually, Camarda would like to see new facilities built for all of the Army's 33 active component bands.

"What this ribbon cutting represents is the coming together of Army bands and a community to provide a world-class training facility for a world-class group of musicians," he said.

"Communities and commands adore their bands. But not all of them have committed resources to provide such a facility. This facility is monumental for this program. It is the beginning of a new era of getting new facilities for Army bands."

In the case of the AMC Band, its new facility became reality with the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Act that required AMC to move from Fort Belvoir, Va., to Redstone Arsenal by Sept. 15, 2011. With AMC getting a new facility, the command also made sure funds were set aside to build a new facility for the band, which moved from Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.

"AMC is responsible for making this happen," Camarda said. "This represents a connection between the command, the community and the band. We have a lot of work to do commiserate with other commands" to make this happen Armywide.

The new AMC Band facility includes a large rehearsal room, individual practice rooms, music library, instrument storage, repair and cleaning, uniform locker rooms and band administration offices. Sound proofing material is used throughout the building and sound systems in the practice rooms allow for performers to practice with the simulated background noise of a particular performance hall, such as the Bob Jones Auditorium, Officers and Civilians Club and even the Von Braun Center's Concert Hall.

Gillies said a number of options were considered at Redstone before it was decided to build a new facility. One such option -- renovating Heiser Hall and adding onto it -- would have cost more than it cost to build the new facility, he said.

Throughout the design and construction process, band officials were consulted regularly by the Corps of Engineers, Mobile District; and general contractor Dyson Construction Company of Decatur to ensure the facility met all the band's needs. For that reason, the new facility will stand as a model facility for other command bands.

"I've already sent the floor plans out to three or four different bands," Gillies said.

During the design process, the "designer asked again and again 'What do you do'' They spent a lot of time learning us and what we do," the band commander said. "We've been here for three weeks now and it feels like home. It works. It's a natural fit for us."

The facility was completed three months ahead of schedule.

"We set the deadline about 16 months ago and we didn't drop a day in that year and a half ... Every Friday I would go to the job site eager to see what was new," Gillies said.
Bob Ratliff, president of Dyson Construction, said the company's close teamwork with the customer, and the top-notch job of subcontractors made the difference in getting the job done early.

"They knew what they wanted, they knew what they needed and they made decisions. That really helped to bring the project along ... In late summer 2009, we developed a schedule with completion in March 2011. We finished early - Dec. 10, 2010 - and after lunch that day, we gave you the keys to the building and you had trucks backed up to the door," he said.

In the spring, the AMC Band building will receive the highest LEED certification possible for a facility, meaning it meets the highest requirements of a Leadership Energy Environmental Design, Ratliff said. The building is 38 percent more efficient than other buildings its size and uses 40 percent less water than other buildings its size. In addition, 97 percent of the construction waste - more than 1,000 tons of metal, chip board, concrete and other construction materials -- from the project was recycled.

"You have a great building and I hope you enjoy it for years and years," Ratliff said.

The design of the new facility began while Chief Warrant Officer 4 Fred Ellwein was in command of the AMC Band. Gillies took command about halfway through the project.

"This is the third new Army band facility I've been involved with," Gillies said. "Unfortunately, I never got to work in the other two. CW4 Ellwein helped design the building knowing it would be turned over to me. CW4 Ellwein, I appreciate the time you spent, the openness you showed and the friendship."

Appreciation toward several individuals representing AMC, Corps of Engineers, Garrison, and the contractor and its subcontractors was expressed during the ribbon cutting. Of those, AMC deputy commander Lt. Gen. Jim Pillsbury singled out local attorney Joe Ritch, who leads the Tennessee Valley BRAC Commission.

"Joe and his leadership, I think, was the driving force behind the success Redstone Arsenal has achieved with BRAC," Pillsbury said.

The lieutenant general called the ribbon cutting the "first step in AMC's move down here" from its current headquarters at Fort Belvoir.

"We're looking forward to moving," he said. "There will be more events like this for AMC" as it opens its new headquarters on Martin Road and completes its move of employees to Redstone Arsenal by June.

One benefit that the AMC Band brings is its members' involvement both on post and in the community. Gillies and several band members are involved with music study and performance at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, Huntsville Community Band and local schools. That involvement will grow as the band grows in size to 40 members.

"Their presence has already been felt," said Garrison deputy commander Curtis Clark, noting the holiday music band members performed around post in December.

"They will be involved in a lot of community activities. I'm confident their presence is going to be felt all over the Tennessee Valley."

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