Band on the run

By Jasmine WalthallOctober 28, 2010

Band on the Run
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. - (Oct. 28, 2010) -- Soldiers in the Company F, 795th Military Police Battalion, were treated to a special surprise during a routine field training exercise. The Woodchucks, Fort Leonard Wood's rock band, which is made up of members of the 399th Army Band, showed up on site to give them a show.

"We were there to entertain, as well as to show BCT Soldiers that there is more to the Army than just their job. It gave them an opportunity to get their head away for a little while," Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Endly, who plays the saxophone in the rock band, said.

The rock band is made up of 10 performers, out of the approximately 37 bandsmen, who play an array of music from rock to hip-hop. The rock band includes Sgt. Steve Lah and Sgt. Mark Mcmurray as the band's vocalists; Sgt. Tracy Williams on the keyboard; Spc. John Gonzales can be found on the drums and Sgt. Ken Applegate plays the bass guitar while Spc. Alex Mirandy rocks out on the lead guitar. Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Endly keeps the melody with his saxaphone, while Spc. Jason Cobb keeps the beat on his trombone along with Spc. Jason Groce on the trumpet. The 399th also travels to perform for Soldiers and families throughout the nation, for ceremonies and for funeral details.

Performances, such as the one for the 795th MP Btn., are not strictly for entertainment purposes.

"We wanted our performance to be a reminder that when deployed, bands are there to entertain. Rock bands come out to Forward Operating Bases to give them a taste of home, and we wanted to make their FTX as real as possible," Sgt. Steve Lah said. "We also wanted our Soldiers to have a chance to hone their skills because it prepares them for deployment as well."

Not just anyone can be a part of the exclusive 42 Romeo, Army Bandsmen, Military Occupational Specialty. Prior to joining the military, hopefuls must try out and pass said audition in order to be considered.

In order to re-class, Soldiers would have to try out for their local Army Band prior to being placed on on-the-job-training orders before attending the Army School of Music in Little Creek, Va.

Contrary to popular belief, while the 399th Army Band is not attached to a deployable unit, bandsmen are indeed deployed.

deployed, we try to get to as many FOBs as possible, especially to the troops with no entertainment, so that Soldiers can have some sort of entertainment while deployed to such remote areas."

Despite the common myth that bandsmen do not do the other things that your average Soldier would, that is not the case at all. The 399th is completely self sufficient to include their own supply, transportation and admin.

"We are musicians first and Soldiers always," Lah said.