"...basic training is a set of memories I really cherish now. So, even the worst part turned out pretty cool in the end. How many people can say they went to basic training? Well, I can.”
Spc. Britney Simmons always knew she wanted to perform and was living her dream as a singer/dancer in a production show aboard a cruise ship when COVID hit in the Spring of 2020.
“We have a family friend who was a band liaison in 2019-2020 when the idea first came up. He knew I was frustrated with the instability of civilian work on and off cruise ships and mentioned to my mother that I should join the Army Band,” said Simmons, vocalist for the 77th Army Band. “It was a surprise to me that the Army Band had singers, but I submitted an audition packet not really thinking anything would come of it. As I progressed through the audition process, I realized this was something I really wanted.”
Simmons grew up in a military family and she felt she could carry on the family tradition of service and do it while remaining true to herself and still following her personal goals and passions.
“I fell in love with musical theatre in middle school. I’m sure Disney movies helped that passion form. I performed in community theatre whenever I had the chance and then got my Bachelor of Music from Belmont University. I have been following that path ever since,” said Simmons.
She said being in the band has allowed her to make some great memories.
“This is going to sound cliché, but the worst part of joining the Army was probably basic training,” she said. “And that’s incredible because basic training is a set of memories I really cherish now. So, even the worst part turned out pretty cool in the end. How many people can say they went to basic training? Well, I can.”
Simmons said she would recommend joining the Army to some of her friends.
“That really depends on the friend. I think you have to be open to having your perspective changed in order to really take advantage of everything the Army can be for you,” she said. “I think people get this idea in their mind that the Army is only infantry or only drill sergeants yelling at you all day, when in fact it can be a great way to find your own personal path and to grow in the safety and stability of something that keeps ‘rolling along’ to quote the song.”
Simmons said there have been a lot of “best parts” about the Army; it has given her some incredible opportunities.
“My first duty station was Camp Humphreys, South Korea, and one of the first things I did there was perform in a music video with a K-pop star. So, that was awesome,” she said. “I also get to work with amazing musicians every day. The Christmas tour last year was a fantastic experience. One I wouldn’t have gotten in any other job.”.
“Also, there are more day-to-day things that I consider ’best parts.’ For example, I can go to the doctor whenever I need to, I have a place to live, and a job doing what I love. Those are definitely ’best parts’ for me,” Simmons said.
As a member of the 77th Army Band, she is in a position of acting as a liaison for the Army.
“Of course, we have more purpose in the Army than that, but we do become the face of the Army because we are the MOS that has the most interaction with civilians,” said Simmons. “I love the job. I do feel pressure to make sure that I don’t stick my foot in my mouth or fall on stage… oh wait. I’ve done that.”
Before she left for basic training, a friend of hers was discussing a study he had done on the culture of the military and how it is one of the most close-knit groups of people.
People spend their entire lives searching for community and the Army gives you that everywhere you go. She cites co-workers, programs and Army initiatives the Army has devised to support Soldiers.
“It only took a year for me to have many new friends spread across the world. You meet new people in every unit - even at basic training,” she said. “People come and go from duty station to duty station and the family unit changes personalities, but it always stays your family; it just gets bigger and more spread out over the world.”
Simmons says she plans to reenlist for another three years. “I’d like to do 20 years in the Army, but I also try to be open to new possibilities, since you can never know for sure what the future will bring.”
To see pictures of Simmons and Fort Sill’s 77th Army Band performing the Christmas concert at Lawton’s McMahon Auditorium check out https://www.flickr.com/photos/fortsillcannoneer/albums/72177720304324120.