by Tech. Sgt. Katie Gar Ward
633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
1/22/2016 - JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. -- A
group of U.S. Airmen recently returned from performing a mission to
educate, enrich and inspire the lives of not only fellow Service
members, but also millions of international community members in
Southwest Asia and the Middle East.
But instead of carrying weapons, these Airmen carried instruments.
The group was part of the U.S. Air Force Heritage of America Band's
high-energy ensemble known as "Full Spectrum," based at Langley Air
Force Base, Virginia. Now home after its 110-day deployment, members of
Full Spectrum reflect on their mission of bridging cultures through the
universal language of music.
Full Spectrum was created in 2013 to support U.S. and coalition forces
deployed to Southwest Asia. On its most recent deployment, Full
Spectrum broke new ground in various regions through its community
outreach efforts, and was even featured alongside comedian Conan O'Brien
during his deployment tour with first lady Michelle Obama.
According to U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Bennett Weidemann, Full Spectrum
noncommissioned officer in charge and drummer, the band's deployed
mission goes beyond entertainment for Service members by also touching
the lives of the international community.
"We played roles as ambassadors for the United States, not just the Air
Force," he said. "To be able to share these [musical] experiences is a
once in a lifetime thing. The relationships that it builds and positive
energy that it brings to what's going on over there can't be replaced
Many of the band's outreach efforts entailed visits to local schools,
which included performances, question and answer sessions and "master
classes," where band members had the opportunity to mentor student
Weidemann said one of his most memorable experiences took place during a
school performance in Kuwait City, where approximately 250 children
were singing along to American pop music.
"We were floored [that] they knew all the words to all the songs. They
were so loud I couldn't hear my own instrument because it was just a
wall of sound," he said. "[That's when] you know that you are doing the
right things and bringing the right message. What a tremendous feeling
that is for all of us on stage to be able to experience that and share
that with [the children]. It's something I think only a military band
can really create because music is a universal language -- something
that everybody knows."
Staff Sgt. Jordan Kimble, Full Spectrum's bass guitarist, said the most
enjoyable aspects of the band's mission was providing support to other
deployed Service members during visits to various military
"Music was just a small part. Most of it was the human interaction, but
the music opens the door," said Kimble. "When people get to share their
life, they open up and release some of that burden onto you, and we'll
gladly take it. Music is what connects us to everyone and what opens
the door to have those relationships."
During their time in Kuwait, Full Spectrum also participated in the
"Discover America" program, a two-week event sponsored by the U.S.
Embassy that showcases American culture, ranging from food, to
entertainment, to travel.
The band's role in the event included several performances at malls, on
local radio stations and in local televisions shows. What started as a
few small performance ideas grew into one of the most dynamic events for
the embassy in years, said Weidemann.
"Once the word got out on social media that there was a live American
band in Kuwait, we didn't sleep much for the next 10 days," he said.
"It was like we were the 'Kuwaiti Beatles.'"
The band was also featured on a Kuwaiti late-night show, which was the
first time in the region American music was aired on live television.
"There's no live music in Kuwait, so it almost makes you giddy because
it was so fun and exciting," said Weidemann. "We were able to build
bridges and partnerships on behalf of the embassy, the ambassador and
the state department. That isn't something that usually happens, and an
Air Force band was the one who was able to make that happen."
Kimble said the scope of the band's efforts during "Discover America"
became clear after a conversation with the U.S. ambassador.
"At the end of all of our gigs, [the ambassador] came up to us and said,
'In the 30 years I've been working in the embassy, I've never seen a
group bridge as many cultural gaps as you did this past week. The impact
you had was amazing,'" said Kimble. "It spoke volumes [about] our
band, but more so to what music in general can do, how music and
American music can bridge cultural barriers."
While often thought of as just black notes across white pages, for Full
Spectrum and other modern military bands, music can bring cultures into a
brilliant chorus, using words that transcend all languages and creating
harmonies that unite all voices.
Full Spectrum's performance with Conan O'Brien is scheduled to air on Jan. 25 at 11 p.m. on TBS.