By Tech. Sgt. Chyenne A. Adams, 11th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 06, 2009
BOLLING AFB, D.C. -- Two of the Air Force's premier performing units joined forces this week - the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team and the U.S. Air Force Band Max Impact - for the first time to showcase their skills in two joint performances in the Southeast region.
The official unveiling of the routine was March 31 at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. About 300 elementary school children, base Airmen, and leadership from Maxwell and Bolling AFB were on hand.
"These are a great bunch of professionals coming together to show you some of what the Air Force is about," said Col. Jon Roop, 11th Wing commander, Bolling AFB, Washington D.C. while introducing the unveiling of the joint endeavor between the Max Impact Band and the Honor Guard Drill Team to a group of students at Robert E. Lee High School April 1. "If you're motivated to join the Air Force after this show...that's great. If you decide to join any other Service after today, that's great too because what's important is that you're choosing to serve your country and give a little something back to your community the way these Airmen in front of you do every day in uniform."
Colonel Roop's comments prefaced the entrance of Max Impact's nine members and the Drill Team's 16 Airmen. The band performed songs ranging from rock to reggae, country to pop, getting the crowd hyped up with an acoustical version of "Iron Man" for the Drill Team's entrance. When the 16-person performance team took the floor, all eyes were glued on the choreographed sequence of show-stopping weapon maneuvers, precise tosses, complex weapon exchanges, and a walk through the gauntlet of spinning weapons.
The Drill Team also received many gasps during a four-person performance centered on a stationary drill commander, flanked by four team members who simultaneously hurl their 11-pound weapons over and around the commander.
When the band reclaimed the stage to perform more songs, plus their original "Locked and Loaded" single, the students couldn't contain their enthusiasm and a few even jumped up out of the bleachers to dance along with the band's singers.
"That was amazing!" said Master Sgt. Regina Coonrod, one of the band's vocalists. "My favorite part of any show is being able to interact like that, during and after the show. It's really what we're all about. To know that after the show they're talking not just about us, but about the Air Force - that's our goal, to get them talking about serving their country. We're a tool for the Air Force and today we truly got to perform in that capacity. I can't wait to do it some more and see the impact we're capable of."
She wasn't the only one witness to the impact the show had on the audience.
"How could this not have an impact today, I mean - look at how excited they all are," said Maj. Barbara Marshal-Coleman, Air Force Junior ROTC director at Robert E. Lee High School. "The whole show was awesome and really activated these kids... if anyone was leaning towards the military; this was all it took today. That band and Drill Team exposed them to a new and very cool side of the Air Force beyond just the planes and deployments."
Combining Max Impact's signature rock-and-roll style with the Drill Team's precision engagement took work, specifically four weeks of training to prepare for this week's unveiling of the routine.
"It was worth the hard work and turned out to be even better than expected," said Master Sgt. Steven West, Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team flight chief. "I didn't realize that music could do so much for the drill, and how primed the band could get the audience with their ability to interact with the crowd."
After the show, students scrambled to have their 'hero cards' - a large photo of the Drill Team with interesting Air Force facts listed on the back along with the recruiting website and phone number - signed by the band and Drill Team and talk with the local recruiters about how they could be a part of something like what they'd just witnessed. All Airmen present - officers, chief master sergeants, senior airmen, recruiter and non-recruiter, stood shoulder-to-shoulder fielding questions from students interested in joining the Air Force.
"This show provided great interaction with a minority-based school that allowed them to see the true diversity of the Air Force," said Master Sgt. Joseph Lujan, a flight chief with the 331st Recruiting Squadron. "The students are well aware of the hard, war-fighting job the Air Force has in today's world. But I've already gotten tremendous feedback from them today about getting to see the positive side of teamwork and what the Air Force is all about."
Lt. Col. Mike Brantley, 331st Recruiting Squadron commander, was also on hand for the show and agreed with his flight chief's assessment.
"The whole thing was great," he said. "Not only a great partnership between the Drill Team and Max Impact, but between that combined unit and recruiting. Today was a great way to share the Air Force story and show them what we can do when we really partner up to make an impact on tomorrow's future Airmen."
That impact was the goal of the combined mission and everyone involved said they felt like that mission was accomplished.
"We far exceeded even our own high expectations," said Master Sgt. Matt Ascione, Max Impact director and guitarist. "We hit our target audience - a group that knew every word to every song we played and sang along the entire time. The feeling is just tremendous - 25 years of hard work rewarded when you can touch a young person's life with music, and hopefully nudge them in a positive direction like joining the Air Force."
Max Impact and Drill Team leadership were in agreement on the rewards of the performances.
"Personally, being African-American and being out in front of the team today, gave me a tremendous source of pride," said Sergeant West. "Today, we showed everyone out there that in the United States Air Force you can truly do anything and be everything that you want to do or be."
For more information on the Air Force Band, including free music downloads, visit www.usafband.af.mil. For more information on the Air Force Honor Guard, visit www.honorguard.af.mil. For more information on joining the Air Force, visit www.airforce.com or call 1-800-423-USAF.