Story and photo by Sgt Isolda McClelland 29th MPAD,USD-C
BAGHDAD – At Forward Operating Base Hammer, home of the Besmaya Combat Training Center, the usual sounds of the day are the booms emitted from the various training ranges. Recently, the booms didn’t come from the ranges, but rather the small stage area on the FOB. The booming sounds of drums hammering away and the low rumble of bass guitars meant that Show of Force, the 25th Infantry Division Band’s rock band ensemble, was warming up and getting ready to bring together a crowd of Soldiers and civilians to the stage.
This nine-member group started off the day playing acoustic rock tunes inside of the Hammer Dining Facility during lunch. The evening show, however, contained a hard-rock style of music that featured widely known American artists such as Metallica, Paramour, Disturbed, Tool and more.
While the band does not focus on typical ceremonial music, the music they do play is meant to uplift the morale and spirits of deployed service members.
“We’re trying to integrate rock bands and what we call popular music ensembles, as the primary focus especially in a deployed environment where we are playing for 25-year-old Soldiers,” said Sgt. Brendan Owen, senior instrumentalist, with Show of Force. They do not want to hear John Philip Sousa, or “Mustang Sally” for that matter. They want modern music and that is what we are giving them.
Playing for deployed troops also lifts the morale of the band members as well.
“You know, you may go about a typical Army day... and that one hour we play, you see that one guy singing along with you, it’s awesome,” said Staff Sgt Christopher Stone, lead vocalist with Show of Force.
Many in the audience were pleased with the selection of music played.
“It was absolutely fantastic, a lot of great classics from back home. And this gives our (Iraqi partners) a taste of Americana,” said 1st Lt. Joshua Wiedner, of C Company, 1st Battalion 18th Infantry Regiment, and the officer in charge of the Mayor Cell at FOB Hammer.
Since deploying, the band has played more than 50 shows to outlying FOBs throughout Iraq.
“This is real important,” said Wiedner, we’re really isolated (from the other USO-sponsored shows) out here east of Baghdad, so whenever we get a chance to break up the monotony of daily operations it’s good and it’s a great stress reliever for our troops.”
And it is the goal of the band to be engaging and entertaining.
“Anyone who sees our show should expect to get rocked,” said Owen. “They are going to get a good show. They are going to get entertained and hopefully they are going to forget, for a little while, whatever stress and whatever things are on their minds for a couple of hours.”
Those in attendance agreed that the entertainment factor was great.
“From what I saw the guys really enjoyed themselves. Everybody seemed like they had a great time and I am glad that (the band) took the time to come out here and play for some of our Soldiers,” said Wiedner.