Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Face of Defense: Basic Training Flightmates Serve Together 21 Years Later

By Air Force Master Sgt. Phil Speck 379th Air Expeditionary Wing

AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar, Jan. 9, 2018 — It all started in 1996. One kid from Prattville, Alabama, and another from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, took a bus to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. They were both a little scared and excited to become the Air Force’s newest airmen.

Twenty-one years later, the Air Force brought Air Force Maj. Nick Hardeman, the distribution flight commander for the 379th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, and Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Nathan McCoy, the chief enlisted manager, together again here.

Hardeman said he vividly remembers sitting in the day room on their first day of BMT with his flightmates as the military training instructors asked for volunteers for dorm chief and element leaders. Most trainees were too scared to speak up at first as they were told “Don’t volunteer for anything” before leaving for BMT.

“What I remember about Nate is that he was the first one -- raised his hand, stood proud, stood tall and said he was the team captain for his basketball team,” Hardeman said. “Since Day One, he’s always been the one to stand up and take the lead.”

Bad News Bears

Their flight was affectionately called the Bad News Bears, and the two agreed they were out of the running of being honor flight graduates within the first week.

“The big reason I joined the Air Force was I didn’t have a whole lot of other options, and I thought, ‘Hey this might be cool,’” Hardman said. “I was that kind of kid, … still here after this many years later.”

Both of them thought they would get out of the military after their initial enlistments, but their Air Force careers turned into adventures that developed them personally and professionally.

“The camaraderie, the people you meet in certain places, you don’t get this in the civilian world. It’s all corporate, it’s all about the mighty dollar,” Hardeman added. “But in the military, it’s not about that. It’s about relationships.”

McCoy arrived here in June and Hardeman arrived a month later. However, it took a little time for the two prior flightmates to realize their common history.

During McCoy’s recent promotion ceremony, Air Force Lt. Col. Kellie Courtland, commander of the 379th ELRS, described the new chief’s military career and mentioned him showing up to BMT in July 1996.

Photographic Memory

At that moment, Hardeman flashed back to that summer of ’96 and realized he knew McCoy from basic training. After the ceremony, he rushed back to his room and pulled up his BMT flight photo, confirming it was him.

“So he sent me the basic training photo, and he had himself and me circled,” McCoy said.

McCoy said he felt proud to have known Hardeman, both back in basic and now that he is a commander.

As commander, Hardeman has overseen many projects, including a new customs and immigration terminal here. He also directs vehicle operations, the base’s bus routes, aircrews that need to get out to their planes, the traffic management office that manages inbound and outbound cargo and makes sure service members get transportation when being forward deployed to other bases around U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility.

“The way they have done business over there is through the roof,” McCoy said when talking about Hardeman’s flight. “You kind of fall back into ‘Wow, that’s a guy I started with 21 years ago.’”

As the chief enlisted manager, McCoy has to stay in tune with and support enlisted airmen. His job requires ensuring squadron members have everything they need, living quarters are in good condition and training deficiencies and morale issues are resolved. He pushes younger airmen to expand their professional development and take advantage of opportunities they have while deployed. He wants to pass on all of his knowledge to help mentor tomorrow’s airmen.

“I take enjoyment in the fact that I can give back. I can ensure that the next airman McCoy is 10 times better than me. We have some bright kids in this Air Force now,” he said.
“The person you are seeing right now was the same person that I saw in basic training,” Hardeman said. “The way he talks about pulling people together, being the cheerleader, he was that guy in our basic training flight. It’s no surprise that he’s a chief master sergeant.”

AMC Band Adds Muscle Shoals Sound to Legacy

By Lisa Simunaci, Army Materiel Command

MUSCLE SHOALS, Ala., Jan. 9, 2018 — Armed with their instruments, soldiers with Army Materiel Command’s unit band entered what many in the music industry consider hallowed ground.

Script lettering over a wood-paneled doorway reads: “Through these doors walk the finest musicians, songwriters, artists and producers in the world.”

The decor is dated and sparse, but plaques commemorating hit records and framed photos of renowned recording artists welcome visitors to Fame Studios. Within these walls, the legendary Muscle Shoals sound reverberates.

‘The History Here is Just Incredible’

“The history here is just incredible,” AMC Band Commander Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 James Bettencourt said. “All of us as musicians had a hero or somebody we grew up listening to, and it’s almost guaranteed they recorded somewhere here in this town. Every musician has their own story -- and I think before each of our soldiers settles in to do their craft, they stop for a second to take it all in and appreciate where we are and what we’re actually doing.”

Bettencourt is the third warrant officer to lead the band since it came to its Redstone Arsenal home, and he will also be its last. The band is among several across the service slated for inactivation next fiscal year.

Dwarfed by the photos of his own musical heroes, Bettencourt stepped inside Fame’s Studio A, where his soldiers were ready to stake their own place in musical history. The AMC Band was capturing its sound and marking its legacy with several recordings in Muscle Shoals. The musical collection, which will be available to the public, will be the lasting testament to the band’s time in the Tennessee Valley.

The band came to Redstone Arsenal in 2011, moving with the Army Materiel Command headquarters as a result of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure. While the headquarters moved from Fort Belvoir, Virginia, the band transferred from Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

Community Performances

Since the band arrived in Huntsville, it has integrated with the community and has made a tradition of connecting with local talent. Playing upward of 300 performances a year, it is common to see members of the community, university musicians and other local groups performing alongside the uniformed band members at public performances.

Building on the band’s tradition of community involvement, Bettencourt reached out to both fellow musicians and the legendary Muscle Shoals music community to pitch in on a project that will live on, long after the band is gone.

Over the period of several months, the band collaborated with top talent, including the Army Field Band’s acoustic group, the Six String Soldiers; Oakwood University’s famed Aeolian choir; and country and bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs. The final result will be recordings engineered at Muscle Shoal Sound, Wishbone and Fame Recording Studios.

On a September day, when the Six String Soldiers were in town to lay down tracks for a cover version of "Country Roads," engineers at Fame Recording Studios quietly acknowledged the abnormality of the situation.

“This is the day the Army invaded Fame Studios,” said singer, songwriter and producer Michael Curtis.

Skilled soldiers riffed on guitars, plucked a bass and strummed banjos and mandolins as they took in the surreal setting.

Overlooking the studio from behind the soundproof glass of the elevated control room, sat Jimmy Johnson -- an original member of The Swampers. A black baseball cap that says “Muscle Shoals” covered his gray hair, and reading glasses settled loosely in his T-shirt pocket.

Army Veteran

To his knowledge, Johnson said this is the first time an Army band has recorded in Fame. And for him, the time communing with the soldiers brings back his own military memories.

“I was in the Army in the ‘60s,” Johnson said. He went to basic training and spent six months in the National Guard. “That was enough for me. I was a 120-day wonder.”

Johnson spent much of that decade playing guitar with the likes of Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett and engineering tracks for groups like the Rolling Stones. After more than a half-century of success in the music business, Johnson credits his short stint in the Army for teaching him discipline.

“I still fold my socks the same way,” he said.

The respect and admiration the soldiers expressed during their time in Muscle Shoals, Johnson said, is mutual. Assisting the AMC Band form its lasting legacy is a point of pride for the producer.

“They say they’re honored to be here,” Johnson said. “That definitely goes both ways.”

Mattis, Japanese Counterpart Discuss Alliance

WASHINGTON, Jan. 9, 2018 — Defense Secretary James N. Mattis spoke with Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera yesterday to discuss a range of issues related to the U.S.-Japan alliance, the Pentagon’s chief spokesperson, Dana W. White, said in a statement following the call.

Mattis and Onodera “condemned North Korea's reckless and unlawful behavior,” White said. “They discussed the importance of maximizing pressure on North Korea so it changes its path, refrains from provocative and threatening actions and makes a strategic decision to abandon its nuclear and missile programs.”

The defense secretary described the North Korean threat as a global problem, she said, and the two officials underscored the importance of garnering international support and cooperating with multinational partners on the pressure campaign.
Mattis reaffirmed the U.S. commitments to Japan’s defense and pledged to work closely with Onodera to bolster critical alliance capabilities, White said.