AIR FORCE DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON --
The Air Force is making an impact on the newest generation of American Airmen via their newest performance unit - a rock and roll band with 101 years of military service and more than 234 years of musical experience amongst them.
Max Impact is a group of nine Airmen, consisting of three vocalists - Master Sgts. Ryan Carson, Regina Coonrod and Shani Prewitt; two guitar players - Master Sgt. Matthew Ascione and Tech. Sgt. Matthew Geist; a drummer - Master Sgt. Dennis Hoffmann; bassist - Tech. Sgt. David Foster; keyboardist - Tech. Sgt. Jonathon McPherson; and audio engineer - Tech. Sgt. Chad Randolph, who make up the Air Force's premier rock-and-roll band.
"If you want to hear music like you'd hear on the radio that has a popular beat that you can really dance to - that's us," said Sergeant Hoffmann, the group's non-commissioned officer in charge. "We're diverse and constantly looking for new music to learn and perform - covers and original material, we do it all."
The diversity is proven at every show when the band performs songs ranging from patriotic to reggae, country to pop. The point is pushed even further when the band goes from performing for dignitaries at a venue in the nation's capital, to performing for a group of elementary school children in Alabama. They've also ranged from their typical performance needs of 100 amps and 220 volts, to performing an acoustic show with just one battery-powered speaker.
"The equipment generally requires a line of electricity higher than the average house would use," said Sergeant Randolph, the group's all-around 'tech guy'. "But we're also set up to adapt and overcome in a deployed situation with a lot of battery-operated equipment - no matter what, it's my job to make sure the band sounds good to the audience."
That standard was tested last fall during a deployment tour when many locations they performed at had no electricity.
"There was one stop at a village in Africa - Najad, the poorest village I'd ever seen.
People were basically living on top of their trash heaps," said Sergeant Randolph. "But it's one of the best experiences I've had with the band because those people were just so appreciative of us being there. We knew at the end of the day that we'd made a difference in people's lives; because, we learned through an interpreter from the chief of the village that because we were there that day and everyone was gathered to watch us, no-one was engaged in any violence, so no-one died that day."
Although not every show can have such a huge impact, every show has some sort of effect on the audience.
"They really were more than I expected," said Airman 1st Class Fatimah Shareef-Malik. "They were truly 'take-the-cake' awesome." Airmen Shareef-Malik came to a Max Impact show at Robins AFB, Ga. March 27.
This diverse group of musicians also each carry another title to their names - roadie.
"A lot of people don't realize that we really are our own roadies and that with such a large amount of equipment, we also have the smallest number of people," said Sergeant Hoffmann. "So the downside of it is the work before and after the show - unloading a 53-foot truck three hours beforehand, spending an hour checking your sound, performing at your highest level for an hour and a half, getting about 15 minutes to shake hands and interact, and then spending hours loading it all back up again."
That load is 48 cases of equipment that weighs more than 8,500 pounds - typical of an average rock band, according to the 'roadies.'
"The flip side of that is we get to play rock music that people really want to hear and we get to represent the Air Force all over the world," he said. "Who could ask for a better life than that? It makes the load worth it."
Max Impact just wrapped up several performances on and around the Maxwell AFB, Ala. and Warner-Robins AFB, Ga. communities. Upcoming performance schedules can be found at www.usafband.af.mil