JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. (Aug. 14, 2011) -- Five Army Reserve bands were given the opportunity to showcase their talents in a friendly competition at Willow Pond Aug. 13, the culminating event of the five-day exercise, "Operation Checkerboard."

Competing for the "Premier Band" guidon streamer were the 78th Army Band from JBMDL, the 319th Army Band from Fort Totten, N.Y., the 94th Army Band from East Windsor, Conn., the 198th Army Band from Rochester, N.Y., and the 380th Army Band from Richmond, Va.

Each band was given 20 minutes to perform and was judged on such elements as style, sound, musical selection and audience enjoyment.

Judges for the competition were Maj. Gen. William D. Razz Waff, commanding general of the 99th RSC; Brig. Gen. Daniel Ammerman, 99th RSC deputy commanding general; Dr. Mikey Kloster, 99th RSC chief of staff; Chief Warrant Officer Vinnie Giordano, command chief warrant officer of the 99th RSC; and Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Castelveter, 99th RSC command sergeant major.

First to perform was the 78th Army Band, which broke into four separate musical performance teams over the course of the 20 minutes. The "Magnificent Brass," a brass quintet, began the competition with the National Anthem and later performed "Requiem for a Soldier," the theme from the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. Other songs from the 78th Army Band's set included "Son of a Preacher Man" and "Oye Como Va."

The 94th Army Band brought back the funk in its set. Vocalist Staff Sgt.Justin Wade sang a number of blues, funk and soul songs, including "Play that Funky Music" and "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," drawing cheers for his charismatic performance.

The 198th Army Band took the competition in a different direction with its "unofficial" military performance team, acoustic folk rock group "Buzz Generated." The four-Soldier team's set included the popular folk song "Wagon Wheel" by Old Crow Medicine Show and a song written by Sgt.Ian Belknap, a percussionist and ukulele player in the 198th, titled "Mutiny."

Next to play was the 380th Army Band, a ceremonial band. Led by Chief Warrant Officer Bruce Patterson, the bandsmen played a selection of instrumental pieces, including John Phillip Sousa's "The Thunderer" and "The American Soldier," a 1904 march by composer Richard C. Dillmore.

The 319th Army Band closed out the competition with a little rock and a little soul; their set included "Over the Hills and Far Away" and "Rock and Roll" by Led Zeppelin, and "Sex Machine" by James Brown. During the performance, Sgt. 1st Class Orville Mills channeled the Godfather of Soul and worked the audience with a Brown-inspired dance.

"I was paying particular attention to each band's performance in relation to their missions," said Kloster. "In addition, I also focused on their musicality, professionalism and the overall performance."

While the points were tallied, Waff accepted the conductor's baton and led the combined bands in "Stars and Stripes Forever" and "The Army Song." Waff, who received a bachelor of music degree from the University of Mississippi, has lent his skill as conductor to a number of other events, including the 99th Infantry Division Association Reunion in Overland Park, Kan., in July.

After the scores were calculated, it became clear how equally talented the bands are: the difference between first and second place was a mere half-point. The 319th Army Band was declared the winner, and its first sergeant and commander brought the guidon forward to add the streamer proclaiming the 319th the "Premier Band" of the 99th RSC. The bandsmen will proudly display the streamer until next year's competition, when they will have to defend the title in another musical showcase.

"Our unit morale has been high as it was, but this just made it even higher," said Spc. Katie Bolcar, a vocalist in the 319th. "It all comes back to taking pride in what you do, and we're so honored to be considered the premier band."

"This was a wonderful end to the training," said Kloster. "Everybody had a great time and the bands had an opportunity to show off a little, which is important because they don't always get the attention they deserve."

The 78th, 94th, 198th, 319th and 380th Army Bands are a part of the 99th RSC. The 99th RSC acts as a "virtual installation" that provides world-class Base Operations support to over 50,000 Army Reserve Soldiers, 400 units and 300 facilities for the entire Northeast Region from Maine to Virginia for the Army Reserve in order to give our Warrior-Citizens and their Families the finest care, support, services and training.

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