Sonora rocks "The Rock"
By Staff Sgt. Shaun Emery
/ Published July 27, 2009
SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Members of the 386th Air Expeditionary wing were treated to a night of entertainment by the U.S. Air Forces Central Expeditionary band Sonora July 21 here.
For the past thirty days, this group of classically trained musicians traveled the region unleashing their inner-rock star and putting smiles on their audience's faces.
These multi-talented performers were forced out of their comfort zones in preparation for their tour. Some band members, like Master Sgt. Beth Sanders, Sonora's noncommissioned officer in charge, are playing something other than their primary instrument.
"This isn't something we normally do," said Sergeant Sanders. "We were told we needed to put together a rock band, so we did and now we're here touring for our fellow Airmen." Sergeant Sanders is a saxophone and clarinet player, but on tour she strums on the base. Sergeant Sander is deployed from the 129th Rescue Wing, Moffett Federal Air Field, Calif.
Sonora is made up of members of the National Guard. National Guard bands deploy for thirty days at a time. For most of the band, this is the first time deploying to the region. But, while the monotony of travel, setting up, playing, packing up and more travel in the desert heat might take its toll the members, Sergeant Sanders said there's nothing like the reactions they get from a thankful audience.
"We've played for all kinds of crowds," she said. "At some of the smaller forward operating bases, we get them up with us, singing and dancing. I think it's a big morale booster for them. Sometimes people can get down out here, so if we reach just a couple folks, we've done our job."
Watching the band perform on stage, the total team concept is evident, with members jumping from one instrument to another, sometimes on vocals and sometimes just hyping up the crowd.
Crowd participation is not uncommon during Sonora's shows. Throughout the night, band members hand out tambourines, maracas and cowbells to audiences eager to join in the fun; even getting up on stage to perform alongside the band.
"We have a lot of fun doing this," said Tech. Sgt. Lindsey Bartlett, Sonora's chief of operations, also deployed from the 129th RQW. "We've met so many amazing people on our tour. It's great to know that we are making an impact on people's lives."
Staff Sgt. Angie Long, vocalist from the 139th Airlift Wing, St. Josephs, Mo., doesn't see herself as a steward for the Air Force, "I just play in a band," she said. But she's seen first-hand the appreciation shown by her fellow servicemembers.
Sergeant Long's most poignant memory came during a 4th of July performance. During a rendition of Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful," Airman, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines started walking to the stage and sat in a circle with her as she belted out the tune.
"It was amazing," she said. "That's what makes this trip and this career field so special."