FORWARD OPERATING BASE MESCAL, Afghanistan - The 3rd Infantry Division arrived in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in August with many of the same types of military elements that its Regional Command South's predecessors had, with one seemingly minor exception: a band.
Making their debut at the Transfer of Authority ceremony held Sept. 3 in Kandahar, the 3rd ID band played the national anthems of both the United States and Afghanistan, providing the first live music for a military ceremony at Kandahar Airfield in nearly a year.
"It's a testament to Gen. (Robert) Abrams and Lt. Col. (Earl) Rilington our commander," said Staff Sgt. Joseph Grabill, a senior non-commissioned officer and vocalist with the band. "[Gen. Abrams] is determined that it's good to have entertainment over here."
That support is making all the difference for both the band and for the soldiers they entertain downrange.
"We wouldn't be able to do what we do without the support we have," said Spc. Tony Martinez, a saxophone and clarinet player with the band.
Spc. James Jaeger, the band's premier bugler agrees. His brother was in the 82nd Airborne's band that remained in theater for only three months last year.
Things are very different with the 3rd ID, Jager said. The 3rd ID command believes that live music can significantly lift the spirits of deployed soldiers.
"We bring a slice of home everywhere we go," said Staff Sgt. Kristin Chandler, a senior NCO and pianist with the band.
The band travels about every other week to forward operating bases throughout RC South. For the most part, their tours resemble a typical band tour anywhere. They fly in for a day, set up, perform, tear down and fly out, usually the next day, to another location. The fact that they are jumping on and off of Chinooks wearing body armor and carrying weapons as well as instruments, just comes with the territory.
"We get to meet some pretty awesome people," Grabill said.
"It's nice to bring what we do to other countries as well," Chandler said. "Everybody listens to American music."
For the most part, Chandler appeared to be right as more than 100 Romanian soldiers turned out for the performance at FOB Mescal, a Romanian run FOB that houses only a small contingent of American forces. Many of the Romanian soldiers sang along to the familiar American tunes such as "Born to be Wild" and "I Love Rock 'n Roll" while others danced or clapped.
A Romanian soldier with the 21st Mountain Battalion stationed at FOB Mescal said that the band's performance was the first live entertainment they'd had since arriving in Afghanistan nearly six months ago.
"We all come from the same town and are going out and having fun together at home," the soldier said. "Here we have nothing and nowhere to gather so we go each to our own tents and our own computers. This (show) was very good for our hearts."
That is exactly what the 3rd ID band and their command believe.
With the holiday season underway, the band, which already performs a minimum of five times a week, intends to increase their appearances in order to reach as many FOBs as possible with some live holiday music.
Splitting into two groups, a jazz combo and a brass quartet, the 3rd ID band plans to divide and conquer RC South for the season. They also promise, very soon, to bring music back to Mescal.