By Spc. James Kennedy BenjaminSeptember 8, 2010
COB BASRA, Iraq - As Operation Iraq Freedom ends and Operation New Dawn begins, units continue to carry out their missions despite the decreasing number of personnel.
The 1st Infantry Division Band from Fort Riley, Kan., continues to perform their mission in southern Iraq despite their own significant reduction of forces.
"When we first arrived here, we had 43 Soldiers," said Chief Warrant Officer Jeremiah Keillor, the 1st Inf. Div. Band commander. "We are down to 14 Soldiers on a daily basis."
The band's mission - providing ceremonial, protocol and morale support to United States Division- South - continues despite the cuts.
"The mission is the same, it's just that it has been reduced in scope," Keillor said. "From January through July, we were running seven musical support teams."
The support teams consisted of several musicians who would go to other posts performing for Soldiers, Keillor said. The teams played a variety of music from rock to hip hop to country, operating independently without the support of the rest of the band.
The teams would rotate once a week to play on Saturdays at Echo's, a restaurant on Contingency Operating Base Basra.
"We would perform about every week down at Echo's, switching the different groups, just so that there would be a little variety of music," Keillor said.
Now the band has one musical support team, a modern rock band named "Controlled Detonation." The band plays at Echo's once every three weeks because of the number of musicians.
"Our primary mission is to provide music to support the troops in any way possible," said 1st Sgt David Fallin, the 1st Inf. Div. Band's senior enlisted member and native of from Martinsville, Va. "But then we have also been tasked with additional duties."
The band rotates 25 percent of their Soldiers daily to provide base defense at COB Basra, Fallin said.
"Soldiers would take personal time after they finished their base defense
duties, and they would rehearse late into the evening to make sure that the units could
continue to function," Keillor said. "They do what they need to do to make sure that base defense is done, and that they continue to do their musical mission as well."
Despite some of the challenges the band faces, they continue to push on with the mission.
"I have been very impressed with the level of commitment in getting the job done with the Soldiers," Keillor said.
"(Maj. Gen. Vincent) Brooks and Command Sgt. Maj.(Jim) Champagne both understand (the mission) and have been very supportive of us as far as giving us the opportunity to support the troops," Fallin said.
Since their arrival in January, the band has completed more than 400 missions throughout USD-S.