By Tom Budzyna, USAG Schinnen NetherlandsMarch 18, 2009
BRUNSSUM, Netherlands -- A trio of trios led to an awesome performance by Sugarland to over 1,800 captivated U.S. Armed Forces and NATO service and family members admitted free into the Sporthal Rumpen here Friday, March 13.
It was all about "threes" for an historic first - and community volunteers stepped up to help make it happen.
The trios - Armed Forces Entertainment, Army Entertainment and Navy Entertainment joined forces to deliver an energizing performance by three top country music bands to an international tri-border community consisting of military personnel based in Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.
Seventeen-year-old country music prodigy Katie Rae Davis, winner of the Texas Music Association Rising Star Award, kicked off the performance followed by Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers, who exploded on stage in Bruce Springsteen-Tom Petty style. Then Grammy Award winning Sugarland, featuring Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush, brought down the house.
"This concert stands out for me because we've brought together three agencies," said Air Force Lt. Jarod Trujillo of Armed Forces Entertainment. "Teaming up with Army and Navy Entertainment increased the chance for a bigger artist, like Sugarland, so it makes a great thing even better. It'd be great to see more of this," Trujillo said.
With a bigger artist came the buzz throughout the tri-border community. It prompted the local Dutch Town of Brunssum to offer the concert venue and inspired more than 30 volunteers to help set up the staging, lighting, flooring, assist the professional production crew and ready the venue for a professional performance.
"I really sensed a great deal of enthusiasm once the concert was announced. Then came all the phone calls," said U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Timothy Huff. "Working with the production crew was awesome and even they admitted they couldn't pull this off without our 30 volunteers," Huff said.
"We had a good laugh helping set up," said British Royal Navy OR2 Michael Shaw, referring to the camaraderie that quickly forms when faced with a challenge. An hour before the show Shaw said, "If the volunteers hadn't come through we'd still be building the set now."
And paying more for the show, too! At a conservative estimate of Ac'A!15 per hour for two days of work, 30 people would cost over Ac'A!7000 - enough to hire a 40-piece professional Glen Miller band!
"This has been our biggest concert so far this year," said Huff, "and we look forward to hosting a hip hop group in April at the Club 13 on JFC Brunssum, then prepare another concert for the Freedom Fest in July," Huff said.
"Volunteering is what fun is!" said Air Force Senior Airman Rebecca Pecina and family member Beth Totten, nearly in unison. They both were part of the lighting crew who operated spotlights for the entire 3-hour concert.
So, three nations were brought together to see three first-class performances made possible by three entertainment agencies. The reward' "To see all the smiles on all the faces in all the shows," said Navy Entertainment specialist Karen Fritz.
The lead singer for Sugarland, Jennifer Nettles, summed it up well, saying, "Military audiences are so grateful and gracious when someone from home comes to perform for them and they never forget it," adding, "It's important to recognize the sacrifices of all military personnel and families. They're grateful that we're here and we're grateful for what they do."
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. David O. Andino, Chief of NATOs JFC Brunssum Morale Welfare Branch, was the master of ceremonies and supervised the entire production on behalf of the tri-border community. Mesmerized by the awesome talent, Andino easily brought focus to the hospitality of the Town of Brunssum, who provided the concert venue, and to the volunteers that worked hard, yet had lots of fun setting up the show.
"This was our biggest concert yet," said Andino, "and from the food concessions, to escorts, to security staff, to stage production and so much more... our volunteers came through. They really made it happen. When we have concerts in the future, we encourage folks to come out and enjoy the buzz and excitement. It's great."
When the show ended, participants were treated to free CDs of Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers and autographed pictures of Katie Rae Davis. A spectator in line for a CD was overheard saying, "This was a great concert. Sugarland's performance lends a whole lot of credibility to the people in charge of the Grammy Awards. Sugarland was... wow."
Watch the American Forces Network Benelux report by clicking on the link in the "Related Links" box on the right.