JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Bandmasters from 51 different Army Guard bands throughout the United States converged onto Joint Base Lewis-McChord to share training concepts and the way ahead for the proponent.

"We provide soft power," said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Greg Stepp, senior Army National Guard bandmaster. "One that senior leaders can use to meet lines of effort that don't require rounds down range."

The training was an opportunity for all senior band leaders and senior enlisted to get together at a single event and have a uniformed platform that speaks directly to their mission. The briefs concentrated on sharing concepts on different approaches to using the training calendar to meet the different mission of the band.

"I think the networking and collaborative relationships that are built at events like these are substantial and give everyone a sense of empowerment," said Sgt. Maj. Diane Lewis, senior enlisted bandleader for Army National Guard bands.

While guardsmen with more general occupational specialties may have numerous members with their same skill throughout the state, that can be different for the members of the bands. Each guard band is generally the only one in that state and can feel isolated, but bringing all these bands together is a great opportunity to talk to someone with the same occupational skill.

The first day of training started off with bandmasters from Florida, Texas and South Dakota briefing their different ways of putting together their yearly training calendars.

"They presented how they trained or how they plan to train their bands in the short term, midterm and long term," said Stepp. "We did that because we wanted all the other bandmasters to see the different ways to do things and hopefully take something from those that they could share with their group."

Army Guard bands have a very unique training schedule, having to provide opportunities to complete mandatory army training, while also providing members to different concert events throughout the year.

"We can go to communities throughout the state that we represent and we can spend time in those communities helping to improve relationships between the local National Guard, and that community and that state," said Stepp.

Whether playing the Star Spangled Banner in local drill halls or concerts at festivals throughout the state the band always represents the Army National Guard admirably.

Lewis said, "51 bands and not a single one looks the same. They are all successful and a positive asset to their state. They know that they're important and provide a vital purpose."