13th Army Band assists South American partnership mission
By Staff Sgt. Ralph Morales
13th Army Band
GUYANA (July 17, 2012) —The Florida Army National Guard’s 13th Army Band participated in a Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE) with the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Band in early July, as part of the National Guard’s State Partnership Program.
The exchange is a follow-up of last year’s inaugural event, during which the foundations were built for the training and development of Guyanese military music and for an ongoing partnership between the organizations.
“They’ve come a long way since last year,” said Sgt. 1st Class Seth Innes, the NCOIC for the mission and trombonist/pianist in the 13th Army Band.
Since the last U.S. visit, the GDF graduated its first class of advanced music students from a military music course featuring applied music theory.
With formal training they hope to standardize the entrance levels and general playing ability of bandsmen. Currently most bandsmen candidates come to the unit with no experience. They learn the instruments they are handed on the first day of their band assignment.
“They (recruits) will only keep joining the band if the band is good,” said GDF Warrant Officer William Richmond , the senior enlisted band leader. “The band can only get bigger and better with good recruits.” He draws a circle in the air with his hands, describing the unit’s perceived dilemma.
GDF bandsmen, unlike U.S. soldiers, are primarily infantrymen with other daily responsibilities and duties. They are allotted little time around their schedules to rehearse and perform musical missions.
During this visit, the U.S. team assessed musical progress and began assistance with recruiting and retention practices. The GDF is looking to recruit more members, as they have many positions open for traditional instrumentalists as well as in their drum corps and steel drum (pan) ensemble.
“Your visit here with us will lead to more and better band recruits,” said, civilian brass instructor Oliver Basdeo of the GDF band.