By Brian Dukes
As the saxophone and flute player for GreenlightGO, a specialized musical group within the 82nd Airborne Division Band, Spc. Luis Echevarria doesn't think he's a rock star - though he and his bandmates often get treated like one.
"I'm just a soldier playing music for other soldiers," he said. "It's always great, and unexpected, when we deploy and perform at different FOBs (forward operating bases), and everyone is so happy and thankful we came out. They want to take pictures with us like we're rock stars."
That reaction isn't uncommon or unwelcome for Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joseph Newby, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division Band.
"It's our mission, through music, to provide music to soldiers - even civilians and foreign nationals."
While instilling the will to fight and win are primary objectives for Newby and his band of soldier-musicians, it's great when their music makes a difference on a deeper, personal level.
"We want the audience to come away with a moving experience," he said. "It's an incredible feeling when we know that our shows are making a difference in the lives of deployed soldiers. We bring them a piece of home, a little bit of America, and brighten their day."
Recently returned from a deployment in Afghanistan, the 82nd Airborne Division Band has 40 members who, like their counterparts in the Ground Forces Band, also play in smaller groups. These groups include the Concert Band, Ceremonial Band, Static Line, GreenlightGO, a trio of small brass groups and a woodwinds group.
"We do more troop support versus community relations," said Sgt. 1st Class Richard Haskins. "And since we have a huge soldier population here, the community misses out on a lot of what we do because we're always on a parade field somewhere."
Haskins said the band chiefly supports the 82nd Airborne Division and the 18th Airborne Corps, performing at change-of-command and retirement ceremonies in addition to community events.
That common purpose, however, isn't without a slight sense of rivalry.
"We might jab at each other, but we all know each other," Haskins said. "It's a playful rivalry."
While it might be fanciful to imagine what a battle of the bands would look or sound like, the reality is that they're unified, Haskins said.
"In the end, we're all musicians and performers in the military. We're on the same team."